On Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers conclude their four-game road trip in Cleveland, where they face a Cavaliers team that has won 15 of its last 16 games. The Lakers, meanwhile, are stuck on 10 wins for the season with no immediate relief in sight.
Through a third of the NBA season, LeBron James has been a monster. The 32-year-old is averaging 28.2 points, 9.0 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game, meaning he's nearly averaging a triple-double in his 15th year as a professional. Add in that James is shooting 42.2 percent from beyond the three-point line, which is better than Stephen Curry this season.
Acknowledge that James is on pace to average a career highs in assists, three-point percentage and field goal percentage, and one could argue that James is putting forth the most impressive season of his highly decorated career.
On the night the Lakers fell to the New York Knicks, James shared his thoughts on Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, who refers to James his favorite player of all time.
"The kid hasn't said anything," James told ESPN's Dave McMenamin. "It's been everybody else. So, I love his humility. He goes out, every time someone asks him a question, he says, 'This is not about me, man. I just want to win. I don't care about what I did.' I seen he had a triple-double one game and they lost. He was like, 'I don't care. We lost.'"
About a month earlier in Milwaukee, Ball became the youngest player to record a triple-double, breaking a record previously held by James. The Lakers lost that night, and the rookie didn't seem like he was in a celebratory mood despite making history. Four games later, Ball repeated the accomplishment and became the youngest player to record multiple triple-doubles and showed slightly more joy because his team won on the night.
"Can I draw any parallel to my experience?" James continued. "I mean, of course. I guess when you're drafted to a franchise, they want you to kind of be the savior. And it takes a while. I mean, listen, man, this guy is 20-something games into his pro career. S--- doesn't happen [that fast]."
Obviously, joining the Lakers has put Ball in the spotlight, and his early shooting troubles garnered attention. Even those numbers have improved, and the rookie's shooting numbers away from STAPLES Center are respectable: 39.2 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from three-point land. However, he's still a 20-year-old, and the inconsistency that comes with being an NBA rookie is not unexpected, even if it is under the magnifying glass.
In this case, Ball being overly scrutinized has brought his game to the attention of the Cavaliers' star, and James likes what he sees.
"Everybody wants it right away," James continued. "Can he play ball? Absolutely. The kid can play ball. Do guys want to play with him? Absolutely, because it's a guy who is not about [himself]. It's about the success of the team. And he gives the ball up, and he passes the ball, and there's energy behind the ball."
Of course, James expects to be a free agent in the upcoming summer, and the Lakers are openly in the market for big name free agents. The Cavaliers' star owns property in Los Angeles and has even been photographed visiting schools for his kids in the LA area. Over the summer, James even went to Las Vegas and watched Ball play in the NBA Summer League to further spark talk of a move to LA.
If nothing else, James' latest comments added to the rumors of a move out West by being publicly complimentary of Ball's play, sharing his belief in the kid's future and the veteran subtly hinting at possibly wanting to play alongside the Lakers' rookie.
On Thursday, though, James will play against Ball for the first time, as the Lakers and Cavaliers are set for a 5 p.m. Pacific Time tip-off.