Whicker: LeBron James is getting tougher with age, but so are his challenges

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Only two players have won NBA championships with three different teams and only Robert Horry was a reason why.The other was John Salley, who won in Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles and became less instrumental with time.Those are not the footsteps LeBron James intended to follow, but that is the goal.He could have tried something easier. He could have played in Philadelphia with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and just moved the Eastern Conference championship trophy to another room in his house. Instead, he is going into the free-fire zone of the West, with far more travel and far more nightly challenges and no other legit All-Star to match his riffs. He will turn 34 on December 30th. It is not a retirement plan. Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersMVP awards come and go, and James Harden deserved his just like Kevin Durant and Steph Curry deserved theirs. But not even the most argumentative TV talker will try to contradict the notion that James is the best player of his time.He might even be underrated, if you consider all this:James led the NBA in minutes played in 2004-05, his second season, and then he led again the past two seasons. No one in league history has been tops in that category, 12 years apart.James played all 82 games last season for the first time in his career (according to Pro-BasketballReference.com).He shot 36.3 and 36.7 percent from the 3-point line the past two years. Those were the second and third best percentages of his career.center_img Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions The only two players taken in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft who are still active are Terence Newman and Terrell Suggs. The first overall pick was Carson Palmer.In 2004, when James finished his rookie season, the Dodgers’ Adrian Beltre was 25 years old.Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were drafted into the NHL in the same month Cleveland drafted James.Ben Howland had not coached his first UCLA basketball game when James was drafted, and Karl Dorrell was the Bruins’ football coach.The Dixie Chicks had the No. 4-selling album of 2003, “Home.”Maybe L.A. will be James’ final basketball home. He might move around, but he remains the NBA’s brick and mortar. He averaged 8.6 rebounds the past two seasons. Those were career highs by more than half a rebound per game.His respect from the officials is particularly unrivaled. He has averaged fewer than two fouls in each of the past three seasons, 1.7 in 2017-18.He has shot 60 percent or better on two-point attempts in four of his past six seasons.His 27.5-point average last season was his best since 2010-11, his first year in Miami. His career best is 30.0 in 2007-08, the only time James won the scoring title.When James first joined Cleveland as a rookie, the Cavaliers won 18 more games than the previous year. When he went to Miami, the Heat improved by 11 games. When he rejoined Cleveland, there was a 20-win jump. That’s an average of just over 16 victories. If this year’s Lakers get better by 16 victories, they’ll have 51.James assisted on 44 percent of Cleveland’s field goals last season, a personal best.Only 35.6 percent of James’ 3-pointers last year were assisted, an indication of his burden in Cleveland.James had 84 “and-ones” last season, getting fouled while he was scoring. That was his most in 10 seasons.Six different times James has averaged more than 30 points in the postseason, leading the NBA three times, including last year at 34.0.Eleven different times James has averaged more than 40 minutes in the postseason, leading the NBA four times, including last year at 41.9. He never has played fewer than 38.2 minutes per game in the playoffs.James was traded only once, from Cleveland to Miami. The Cavaliers got draft picks that became Jae Crowder, Milan Macvan, Nemanja Nedovic and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.James was selected first in the 2003 NBA draft.  The only others from that draft to play 15 seasons are Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, David West, Kyle Korver and Zaza Pachulia.The only two players taken in the first round or “sandwich” round of the 2003 MLB draft who are still active are Nick Markakis and Adam Jones. The first overall pick was Delmon Young.Related Articleslast_img

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