The “King” has tended to save himself in recent seasons on defense. But with the arrival of Anthony Davis at his side on the field, and Frank Vogel on the bench, things have changed.
Just on the verge of being named MVP and defenseman of the year in 2013, LeBron James was indeed an incredible defenseman during his years at the Heat, combining his athleticism with a sense of anticipation and recognition of opposing systems that often allowed him to torpedo opposing attacks, sometimes single-handedly.
Except that during his second stint in Cleveland, and in his first season in Los Angeles, the “King” tended to save himself on this side of the floor, especially in the regular season.
As he got older, LeBron James would manage his efforts and take shortcuts, skipping defensive rotations.
Anthony Davis doesn’t hesitate to confront LeBron James with his mistakes.
In a very good article, Zach Lowe details why that has changed this season. It is the effect of the joint influence of Frank Vogel and Anthony Davis. The coach has always relied first on defense, physical and aggressive, to build his teams, while the latter did not hesitate to rebuff LeBron James when he was slacking off.
During the team’s first few practices, the Lakers players were a little surprised to see the inside of the team yelling at the quadruple MVP when he missed defensive rotations.
“There were a couple of moments when they had some discussion,” Vogel said. “It’s your fault, don’t try to take it out on someone else. It’s your defensive rotation. And LeBron accepted that. “Danny Green confirms: “They came in with a desire to hold each other accountable. »
During the video sessions, Frank Vogel also didn’t hesitate to display LeBron James’ errors, just like any other player. The coach wanted a physical defense, which would be felt at all times, with a member of the frontcourt (LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee…) always present to protect the circle, even during the “switches” on the backs. No way to have a weak link.
Frank Vogel listening to his players’ remarks
“If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we would be connected, I would have said it was impossible,” continued the coach, who was not in LeBron’s favour at the time of his appointment. “But everyone, starting with LeBron and AD, has been very focused this season. When that’s the case, you can only improve. »
Frank Vogel is thus a pragmatic man who listens to his men. While he laid the foundations of his philosophy at the beginning of the season, he also let his group improve its system, LeBron James pushing for example to direct certain creators (like Joe Ingles) systematically on their weak hand.
Spotted on Reddit, this sequence from Game 1 of the Finals is a good example of the Lakers’ ultra-physical and connected defense, with LeBron James as involved as he was in his Miami years.
It shows the “King” almost single-handedly torpedoing one of Erik Spoelstra’s finest after-death systems. First, he requests a defensive change from Danny Green to block the cut to Jimmy Butler’s circle following a screen from Duncan Robinson. Then, he positions himself to avoid the latter’s move, who must take advantage of a screen by Jae Crowder. The shooter manages to escape him but Anthony Davis reacts instantly, while LeBron James then throws himself at Bam Adebayo to break the last option of the system, a 4-on-3. It’s true that he makes a mistake but the reading, the intensity and the connection of the defense are impressive.