NBA

LeBron James knows the LA Lakers need to step up

After a collapse against Boston on Friday night, the questions surrounding the Lakers' ability to get it right are intensifying.

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Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James isn't making excuses for his team's rough start to the 2021 NBA regular season, he knows they need to improve.

The NBA regular season has not got off to a good start for the Lakers and their star player knows it

LeBron James returns but he's not happy

The Lakers' talisman returned from a long term absence but he was unable to lift his team out of the trenches of inconsistency that has been a hallmark of his team on both ends of the court. In the end the Lakers fell to the Celtics in a 130-108 loss on Friday. The 130 points scored by Boston is the most the Lakers have allowed all season. With that defeat the Lakers - who are favorites to win the championship - now sit on an 8-9 record.

Asked if he preferred to look down the road especially considering recent injuries, James was defiant. "It's never, 'We got 65 games left,'" he said. "We damn sure need to play better, no matter who is in the lineup. We have our system and we need to obviously fast-track it and get better with it so we can play, no matter who is out on the floor, we can play at a high level. ...There's no level of panic, but there should be some sense of urgency any time we take the floor."

LeBron James has been out for a bit

The loss to Boston marked the first time James had played in 2½ weeks due to an abdomen strain. For his part he was what back to his old ways on the night, posting 23 points at 10-for-16 shooting along with six rebounds, two assists and two steals. It is interesting to note, however, that there was a distinct air of caution by James who shot only three of his attempts from inside the paint. This most recent injury was his third serious injury in the last four seasons.

"Physically I felt OK and good enough to know that I can trust my body and get out and play tonight," James said. "So I'm more looking forward to seeing how I'm feeling tomorrow when I wake up. That is the telltale sign if I'm moving in the right direction with my injury."

The Lakers need to be concerned

Among a variety of talking points, it is worth noting that Boston won the rebound battle by some distance on Friday night, claiming 51 rebounds compared to the Lakers' 33. To add further context, this was in spite of the fact that starting center Robert Williams III wasn't in the lineup. "I mean...rebound," said Russell Westbrook when asked about the rebound scenario. "Ain't too much you can do about it. Just go get the ball...simple as that."

Coach Frank Vogel also seemed to focus on the potential rather than making excuses. "We have to get committed to playing as a team offensively," Vogel said. "And when we do, like we saw in the first quarter, it looks beautiful and you see the potential of what we can be. But we got into holding the ball too much and not playing for each other enough. But that's part of learning each other and building that cohesiveness and the right habits. And then defensively, guys are going to have big roles if they commit to the defensive side. And if they don't, they're not. It's that simple."

Center Anthony Davis also shared his view saying, "We can go out and compete every night, but I don't think it's our offense. I think it's our defense, honestly," he said. "We've just got to do a better job on the defensive end."

Russell Westbrook owns up

On the night one of the glaring battles which the Lakers lost was that of Russell Westbrook and the guard he was acquired to replace, Dennis Schroder. Schroeder posted 21 points, six assists and six rebounds to Westbrook's 12, six and four. Westbrook, however, was quick to face the growing tension head on. "I think the reality of it is everybody on the outside have really high expectations of our team, as they should," Westbrook said. "But the reality of it is we haven't really played with each other realistically, and nobody cares and everybody asks the same question, and I'm tired of giving the same answer to the same question every time we lose."

"It's like, 'Hey, how long do you think it's going to take?' We don't know. When we win, it's still going to take some time. So the reality of it is, throughout the season, there's going to be ups, there's going to be downs. It's now what you do as a team. You can pull apart, or you can come together and figure it out."

The Lakers face a bumpy road

While the speculation surrounding the Lakers continues to intensify, the reality is they are also dealing with injuries. Kendrick Nunn (right knee) and Trevor Ariza (right ankle), have both remained on the sidelines and are yet to play in a single game this season. Then there is also rookie Austin Reaves who continues to sit down due to a hamstring strain. Speaking on the way forward James said he would like to have a more consistent identity to the team in terms of the players selected and the roles asked of them. James was also clear about the fact that the Lakers are not about to back down from the challenge in front of them.

"It's never as bad as it may seem, and it's never as good as it may feel," James said. "So I stay even-keeled throughout the whole journey. I understand this is a huge [undertaking]. It's a process for us. And I've always felt comfortable when things are uncomfortable, so I look forward to the process of us trying to get better. And us getting better. Not trying. We will get better. We will improve."