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Column: The Lakers need LeBron James to play great. That is not sustainable

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Column: The Lakers need LeBron James to play great. That is not sustainable

The Lakers’ most recent victory required LeBron James to play 40 minutes.

“If Bron plays like this, we want him to play 48 minutes,” guard Austin Reaves said.

Actually, the Lakers don’t.

James will celebrate his 39th birthday next month, which makes his logic-defying early-season efforts as disconcerting as they are promising.

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The Lakers are as dependent on James as ever.

This season was supposed to be different, with the Lakers expecting their improved depth to decrease their reliance on James and allow them to better manage his workload.

That’s not what’s happened.

What does this mean for his ability to stay healthy? How much will he have remaining in the tank for the playoffs?

The Lakers don’t have the luxury to ask those questions right now.

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James scored 37 points on Sunday night in a 105-104 victory over the Houston Rockets. He scored 35 in the game before that, a win on the road over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.

He has made 50% or more of his shots in every game he’s played except one. He’s averaging 26.4 points per game.

“The LeBron we’ve all come to know and love over these 21 years,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.

The Lakers have won five of their last six games, but they still don’t look right. As well as James has played, why are they only 8-6?

They returned the nucleus of a team that reached the Western Conference finals, only to revert to how they looked before general manager Rob Pelinka reconfigured the roster before the trade deadline last season.

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“Last year, we made a big run and the main guys came back,” forward Rui Hachimura said. “We’ve still been building our chemistry. We’re still trying to figure it out. I think we’re getting better. I can feel it.”

For now, the Lakers are back to being a two-man team, with James and Anthony Davis the only players who can be counted on.

Point guard D’Angelo Russell is either really good or really bad and rarely anything in between. That’s also the case with Hachimura, who missed four games earlier in the season while in the league’s concussion protocol. Reaves is now playing with the team’s second unit.

The Lakers are 26th in the league in three-point shooting percentage at just 33.8%. In the win over the Rockets, they made only six of 29 threes (20.7%).

James has camouflaged the team’s deficiencies.

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Considering he’s missed games to injuries in every season he’s played for the Lakers, this isn’t a sustainable approach. As it is, James is playing with a bruised calf that forced him to miss a game last week and acknowledged he didn’t feel great in the win over the Rockets.

“Just trying to push the limit, see how far I can take this thing,” James said. “Me versus Father Time, so I’m trying to change the narrative. Started off last year, and see if I can keep it going.”

James scored two points in the opening quarter against the Rockets, after which the Lakers were behind 28-20. He made 13 of 15 shots over the remainder of the game.

At some point, James said he noticed his son Bronny was seated courtside. Earlier that same day, Bronny participated in pregame warmups with the USC basketball team for the first time this season. Bronny suffered cardiac arrest while working out with the Trojans over the summer and still hasn’t made his college debut.

“I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to turn it up a little bit even more with him in the building,’” James said.

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Bronny’s presence was a reminder: James is the father of a 19-year-old USC freshman.

“I remind him every day he’s old — in basketball years,” Reaves said with a smile. “I just told him that again.”

Turning serious, Reaves continued: “He’s fighting Father Time better than anybody that’s played the game other than Tom Brady, maybe. He’s playing at a really, really high level.”

By doing so, James has bought the Lakers time to find themselves. But they can’t lean on him like this forever. If this continues, their weight will break something in his 38-year-old body at some point, and that could break their season.

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LeBron James, Steph Curry had a 'healthy resentment' — Olympics offer something new

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LeBron James, Steph Curry had a 'healthy resentment' — Olympics offer something new

Follow our Olympics coverage in the lead-up to the Paris Games.


ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — LeBron James was genuinely thrilled to see Stephen Curry in that Bellagio hotel ballroom in Las Vegas on the eve of Team USA training camp.

Born in the same Akron, Ohio, hospital nearly four years apart, co-authors of the last great NBA rivalry, co-inhabitants of the league’s C Suite as the two most famous, respected and decorated active players, they were to join up as co-chief executives of the American Olympic team as teammates for the first time, outside of a meaningless All-Star Game.

“’Bout time, ’bout (expletive) time,” James, in a denim jacket and do-rag, said to Curry, wearing a plain white T and a black vest, when they saw each other the night of July 5, with cameras rolling and a boom mic hanging over them.

It was nearly one year ago, in late August 2023, when James called Curry to see if he was interested in joining him on the Olympic team. Now, granted, at the time of the call, there was no Olympic team yet. USA Basketball was engaged in the FIBA World Cup, a wholly separate team and event, and it is typically not up to players as to who makes the 12-man roster for any U.S. national team.

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But a player the caliber of James, or Curry? If they say they want to play for Team USA, they aren’t going to be told no.

James, 39, has played 21 NBA seasons, is the sport’s all-time scoring king, a four-time champion (on three different teams; no one had led three franchises to titles before James did it), a four-time MVP and a league-record 20-time All-Star. James co-anchored the Redeem Team in 2008 and is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, as well as USA Basketball’s all-time assists leader. He is, and has been for many years, widely considered the “face” of the NBA.

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Curry, 36, has changed in 15 NBA seasons how the game is played — not only in the NBA, or America, but also around the world. He revolutionized the sport with a relentless aerial assault of 3-pointers, making (and shooting) more of them than any other NBA player ever, though it would be selling him way short to simply call him a great shooter. Curry encapsulates greatness as a winner (four NBA championships), performer (two-time MVP, 10-time All-Star) and as the steward of the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty.

The two of them wearing USA jerseys at the same time, sharing the same practice courts at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, or at New York University’s campus in Abu Dhabi, or on the biggest sports stage in the world, the Paris Olympics, is or will be a surreal sight for anyone privileged enough to see it, including their teammates.

“It’s just cool, I’m not going to lie,” said Tyrese Haliburton, a Team USA guard at the tender age of 24. “It’s pretty dope just for me, like when I was a kid, just watching those guys playing the finals every year. I think the more time I’m around them, the more I’ll hear stories and stuff, and that’ll be really cool because those are things that I probably wondered about when I was 15, 16.”

Will Haliburton hear about when James and Curry didn’t like each other too much? Unlikely, but it happened.

Perhaps measuring the relationship in terms of “like” or “dislike” is the wrong metric. When Curry was starring in college at Davidson, and leading the small school on a ride through the NCAA Tournament in 2008, James, already an established megastar, attended one of Curry’s games. When Curry was a rookie with Golden State in 2009-10, James invited him to his house in suburban Cleveland on an off night for the Warriors and Cavs. Curry said he could call on James occasionally for advice.

Stephen Curry and LeBron James

LeBron James congratulates Stephen Curry after the 2017 NBA Finals. The two stars met in four straight finals from 2015 to 2018. (Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAE via Getty Images)

But from 2015 through 2018, James’ Cavs and Curry’s Warriors met every June in the NBA Finals. The first three of those series were remarkably tense, and the stress spilled onto how James, and the people close to him, thought of Curry at the time, and vice versa.

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In 2015, James’ short-handed Cavs took a 2-1 series lead, only to be overcome and outlasted by a healthier, deeper Warriors team. The next year, Cleveland became the only team to ever recover from a 3-1 deficit in a finals to win; James spearheaded the comeback. And then Curry recruited Kevin Durant to the Warriors, and while they beat Cleveland in five games the following finals, the series turned on Durant’s 31 points in Game 3, including a game-winning 3-pointer over James.

From the end of the ’15 finals, just about until the nanosecond the Cavs won in ’16, people close to James often scoffed at Curry’s rising star, suggesting that Curry unfairly escaped the scrutiny James was constantly under. In an extended celebration of the 2016 championship, James hosted a Halloween party the following October with cookies decorated as tombstones, with Curry (and, to be fair, other Warriors stars) engraved on the treat.

On the other side, people close to Curry often pointed out how much drama seemed to follow James’ teams, whether it was on the Cavs, or even before that in Miami. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2016, Curry’s Warriors played their first game in Cleveland since clinching the ’15 finals there seven months earlier, and Curry infamously quipped about the visitors locker room: “Hopefully, it still smells a little bit like champagne.” After the Warriors won in 2017, Curry was caught on a cell phone video at Harrison Barnes’ wedding mocking James as a dancer — with James’ about-to-be former teammate Kyrie Irving laughing hysterically.

Both Curry and James acknowledged that there was a certain tension between them that has dissipated.

“It was like a healthy resentment of somebody that’s standing in your way,” Curry said. “But through it all, like there’s obviously the utmost respect for who he is as a person and a player and like how good he is and the challenge of trying to beat him and trying to solve that problem every year.”

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James nodded in agreement when a reporter suggested an apparent rivalry existed between him and Curry years ago, though he said the idea that “they should hate each other” was a false media narrative. James went on to explain why he wanted to make sure it never came to that between him and Curry.

“The game of basketball don’t last forever,” James said. “You don’t want to waste the opportunity to be able to have a relationship with someone.”

LeBron James and Stephen Curry

Team USA gives LeBron James and Stephen Curry a rare opportunity to be teammates. “There’s obviously the utmost respect for who he is as a person and a player,” Curry says. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

James said he and Curry “understand” that NBA fans, and media, for that matter, of a certain age still viewed how players should act toward each other through the lens of the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry of the 1980s, or of Michael Jordan’s contempt for virtually all opponents when he dominated the 1990s.

“A lot of y’all maybe grew up in the Bird-Magic era and we shouldn’t like each other, but I’m also (aware) enough to know that Isiah (Thomas) and Magic hugged and kissed each other on the floor too because it was just mutual respect,” James said. “They say Michael never talked to any of his opponents, but I’m also smart enough to know that him and Charles (Barkley) had a lot of conversations during the ’93 finals and also played golf against each other.

“So I don’t want to lose those moments (with Curry).”

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James and Curry have said over the last two weeks that they’ve enjoyed watching each other in practice, gleaning how each transcendental superstar goes about his work and learning more about who they are (or, to be more precise, who they’ve become since those finals battles) off the court.

Durant, another Team USA superstar, said the relationship between James and Curry is stronger because of the tension from the previous decade, when they commanded record TV audiences in June and otherwise co-opted the center of the basketball universe, with split headquarters in Cleveland and San Francisco.

“He ain’t young Steph no more, and he’s not the Bron that you were looking up to no more — you become competitors,” Durant said, explaining how he viewed whatever it was that used to exist between James and Curry. “I think that respect level goes up even more. I think they became better friends now than they were when they went through that experience, competing with one another and being rivals, if you call it that.

“You could see that, you can see how much they respect one another.”

It is about (expletive) time.

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Anthony Davis’ solid play for Team USA creates a tough question for Steve Kerr

(Top illustration: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; photos: Giuseppe Cacase / AFP / Getty Images, Joe Murphy / NBAE / Getty Images)

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NFL legend Lawrence Taylor arrested on sex offender-related charge

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NFL legend Lawrence Taylor arrested on sex offender-related charge

Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor turned himself in to a Florida jail on Wednesday and was hit with a sex offender charge over an incident from earlier this month, court records showed.

Taylor was charged with sex offender fail to comply with law – a third-degree felony – on an incident in Broward County on July 2.

Lawrence Taylor arrives for a Trump campaign rally on May 11, 2024, in Wildwood, New Jersey. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

TMZ Sports first reported Taylor’s trouble with the law. The 65-year-old former New York Giants star linebacker was released from jail early Thursday.

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“My client, Lawrence Taylor, will be pleading ‘Not Guilty’ to the recent charges,” Taylor’s attorney, Mark English, told TMZ. “As with the previous incident involving the same allegations, Mr. Taylor did not knowingly commit any criminal offense. 

“This situation is a significant misunderstanding. We are confident that, once the prosecutors review the exculpatory evidence demonstrating Mr. Taylor’s innocence, he will once again achieve a favorable outcome.”

GAMBLING, COMPUTER FRAUD CHARGES AGAINST PATRIOTS’ KAYSHON BOUTTE DROPPED: REPORT

Lawrence Taylor at MetLife Stadium

Former New York Giants player Lawrence Taylor waves to the crowd prior to their game against the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 3, 2014, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

TMZ reported the charge stems from allegedly failing to report a name or residence change.

Taylor pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct and patronizing a prostitute in 2011 after he was accused of having sexual relations with a 16-year-old girl, according to the New York Post. Taylor said at the time the girl told him she was 19.

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Similarly to this arrest, Taylor was arrested in 2021 for failing to report an address change. His attorney at the time called it a “mix up.” He pleaded no contest to “residency restriction for persons convicted of certain sex offenses,” according to TMZ.

Lawrence Taylor at the Super Bowl

Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants during warmups before Super Bowl XXV against the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 27, 1991, in Tampa, Florida. (Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Taylor, 65, played for the Giants from 1981 to 1993.

Follow Fox News Digital’s sports coverage on X and subscribe to the Fox News Sports Huddle newsletter.

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Ryan Garcia charged with vandalism of Beverly Hills hotel: 'No way I'm going to jail'

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Ryan Garcia charged with vandalism of Beverly Hills hotel: 'No way I'm going to jail'

Troubled boxer Ryan Garcia was charged Thursday with vandalizing the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón announced.

The charge is a misdemeanor, reduced from the felony vandalism charge on which Garcia was arrested June 8 after he allegedly caused more than $400 damage to a room and hallway of the hotel. His arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 7 and he faces a maximum of one year in jail if convicted.

“While we are grateful no injuries were reported in this incident, reckless behavior that damages property shows a blatant and unacceptable disregard for the safety and peace of our community,” Gascón said in a news release. “Our office will work to ensure the responsible individual is held accountable.”

Garcia, 25, responded to the charge with a post on social media: “No way I’m going to jail.”

The Victorville native has experienced a steep fall after defeating unbeaten World Boxing Council super lightweight champion Devin Haney in April by decision in Brooklyn, a stunning upset preceded and followed by controversy and Garcia’s erratic behavior.

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Eleven days later, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Assn. determined that Garcia (25-1, 20 KOs) had tested positive for Ostarine, a performance-enhancing drug that can stimulate muscle growth, the day before and the day of the fight. Garcia denied the accusation and said on social media that he’d take a drug test.

Haney had never been knocked down in a fight, but Garcia put him on his back three times. Because Garcia weighed in three pounds over the 140-pound limit, however, the WBC junior welterweight title did not change hands.

The bout was changed to a no-contest on June 20 and Garcia was fined $1.2 million and suspended for a year after he reached a settlement with the New York State Athletic Commission. Garcia will be reinstated April 20, provided he passes a urine test, the commission said.

Last month, the Beverly Hills Police Department said officers responded to a report of an “intoxicated person,” who was later identified as Garcia, at the Waldorf Astoria.

“Hotel management requested the arrest of Mr. Garcia for property damage,” Beverly Hills Police Lt. Andrew Myers said in a statement.

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Garcia’s attorney, Darin Chavez, told The Times after the arrest last month that Garcia had recently received “devastating” news about his mother’s health.

“Ryan has been open about his struggles with mental health over the years, and at this time he is dealing with an immense emotional burden,” Chavez said in a statement. “The support and understanding from fans and the public are crucial as he navigates these personal challenges. We are working diligently to provide Ryan with the resources he needs.”

Hours before his arrest, Garcia posted messages to X about people protecting “pedos,” shorthand for pedophiles.

“Everyone is disgusting [ … ] trying to hide their wrongs,” Garcia wrote in his last post about two hours before the alleged vandalism. The next day, he posted that he was “on hold” at the hospital and asked for prayers from his fans.

Garcia took to X shortly before his suspension as well, posting that he was retiring from boxing and wanted to talk to UFC president Dana White about joining that organization.

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“I really hope boxing good without me,” Garcia posted. “I fought everyone and was willing to. They have turned there back on me. I’m innocent. I stand by that I don’t care what everyone says. Gun yo my head I say I didn’t take PED’s.”

In July, Garcia was expelled by the World Boxing Council after he repeatedly used racial slurs against Black people and disparaged Muslims in comments livestreamed on social media. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman announced the penalty against Garcia on X.

“Exercising my authority as president of the WBC, I am hereby expelling Ryan Garcia from any activity with our organization,” Sulaiman wrote. “We reject any form of discrimination.”

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