LeBron James’ Lakers have struggled coming out of the gates this year, and as a result, they’ve resorted to some innovative lineup changes.
After trading for Russell Westbrook in the offseason, expectations were sky-high for this Los Angeles squad who had just formed the NBA’s newest big three.
Those expectations have com crashing down as the Lakers are currently barely over .500 a 21-20, sitting at 7th in the Western Conference, squarely in the play-in tournament. Russell Westbrook hasn’t looked like the Westbrook we all know and love and there are clear roster issues that need to be addressed. On top of that, star forward Anthony Davis has been injured.
In light of these developments, the Lakers knew they had to make some changes. While they didn’t do anything drastic (like trading Westbrook away), they did change up their lineups a bit, switching LeBron to center. Yep, LeBron is playing center at 37 years old, and more interestingly, it’s largely been working.
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Shannon Sharpe compares LeBron James playing center to Magic Johnson’s 1980 Finals
Moving LeBron to center has actually worked extremely well for the Lakers and LeBron. The Lakers rolled out point-center LeBron after their disappointing loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Christmas day in a game against the Houston Rockets.
LeBron put up a triple double in that game with 32 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds, and ever since then it’s mostly been smooth sailing. The Lakers have run LeBron had center six times since that game, and they’re 5-1 in that stretch.
James has averaged 33.1 ppg, 6.8 apg, and 8.8 rpg. There are no words to explain this dominance. In fact LeBron’s been so good at center that head coach Frank Vogel claims that Russell Westbrook has been playing better as a result of it, and he’s not wrong. Westbrook posted two games without turnovers in LeBron’s run at the 5. He’s also said that LeBron will play backup center when Anthony Davis returns.
— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) January 12, 2022
LeBron playing center is sort of a call back to the 1980 NBA Finals when Magic Johnson was asked to step into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s shoes. In game 6 of the Finals, Abdul-Jabbar was out with an ankle injury from the previous game, and so Magic took over at center. Just like LeBron, Magic feasted as he piled on 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists in a series clinching 123-107 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Shannon Sharpe made note of this similarity and pointed it out on ‘The Undisputed’ while also labeling LeBron as the third best center in the league currently.
.@ShannonSharpe on how impressive LeBron has been playing center:
“There’s been 2 guys that’s been able to do what he’s done: Magic Johnson in the NBA Finals and Bron. If you make me say it, I’ll say LeBron is the 3rd-best center in the NBA right now.” pic.twitter.com/6xnViGul8j
— UNDISPUTED (@undisputed) January 12, 2022