Good morning. Let’s basketball.
The Lakers lost a heartbreaker to the Clippers in the Christmas centerpiece game, falling apart in the closing minutes despite having a 15-point lead in the third.
That is really the least of the Lakers’ worries: LeBron James tried to take a charge on Pat Beverley in the first quarter, caught a knee to the groin for his troubles, and stopped driving the lane for pretty much the rest of the game. He’s day-to-day and defiant about resting up with a weekend back-to-back on the horizon and the Lakers losers of four straight. LA remains two games up on the Clippers in the West, but LeBron has been acting too tough to be reasonably manage his workload this season — probably because his rival Kawhi Leonard is actively managing his own workload.
That needs to stop. LeBron needs to take the long view here. As the Christmas game showed, the Lakers need LeBron at his full powers to beat the Clippers. LeBron taking as many threes as a Warrior isn’t going to work — that’s not how he tilts a game. He does it by getting on the move with the ball and drawing fouls, finishing at the rim, or finding the open shooters or cutters. He stopped doing that for much of the Wednesday loss. He missed a bunch of threes instead.
The Lakers will no doubt force LeBron to heal before he plays. But even once he heals, the Lakers need to push LeBron to chill on the load management rhetoric — he’s not going to shame Kawhi or the Clippers into changing their strategy, not after it helped Kawhi and the Raptors to a title last season — and find opportunities to rest him and Anthony Davis throughout the year. Rest is a physiological miracle. Denying its usefulness given what we know and what we’ve seen is foolish if the goal is really the championship (which we all think it is for LeBron and the Lakers).
Nothing about the Lakers’ loss was caused by LeBron’s too-proud-to-rest stance: your groin gets jacked by a Pat Bev knee regardless, you can lose to an excellent squad no matter how you rest. But the Lakers won’t survive a series against that team without LeBron being at the top of his game. Everything that happens for the next four months should be focused on improving the odds he gets to April in the best condition possible.
Celtics 118, Raptors 102
Bucks 109, Sixers 121
Rockets 104, Warriors 116 (LMAO incredible)
Clippers 111, Lakers 106
Pelicans 112, Nuggets 100 (Nice work, Denver)
All times ET. Games on League Pass unless otherwise noted.
Wizards at Pistons, 7 p.m.
Knicks at Nets, 7:30 p.m.
Grizzlies at Thunder, 8 p.m.
Spurs at Mavericks, 8 p.m., TNT
Wolves at Kings, 10 p.m.
Blazers at Jazz, 10:30 p.m., TNT
Thank You, Readers
This is the last issue of Good Morning It’s Basketball that I will be writing for SB Nation. My contract is ending due to things explained in last week’s Vox Media announcement about California-based contributors.
In the New Year, I will be writing some columns for SBNation.com on a less frequent basis. Most of my time will, however, be spent producing Good Morning It’s Basketball as an independent publisher using the Substack platform.
Please sign up for the new version of Good Morning It’s Basketball. All issues of the newsletter are free for the next couple of weeks. After that point, free subscribers will get one newsletter per week and paid subscribers ($5 a month or $50 a year) will get five newsletters per week. You’ll be able to read via email or on the website. There will be a comment section for paid subscribers only. The newsletter itself will be the Good Morning It’s Basketball you love with something like The Hook (my thrice-weekly column) thrown in as a part of the newsletter on a regular basis. (Rap Talk with Tom Ziller is negotiable. Very Brief Children’s Movie Reviews are guaranteed.)
I’m really excited. The first proper issue is Friday. We’re talking about LeBron and Drake and the 2010s and influence. Again, you’ll need to subscribe (even on the free plan — no need to find your wallet to get your credit card out at this point) to get it in your inbox on Friday.
Thank you for letting me into your inbox and onto your screens all these years. Party on, dudes. And, of course, be excellent to each other.