What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Mark Medina discusses how mental health and the stresses of being inside the NBA bubble has become an issue players are talking about as the playoffs press on.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — One game captured LeBron James’ greatness through 17 years. It showcased his dominant scoring. It displayed his precise playmaking. It demonstrated his timely blocks.
So perhaps it might not be surprising that James played a major part in the Los Angeles Lakers cementing a 112-102 Game 3 win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday. By scoring 36 points, grabbing seven rebounds, distributing six assists and recording four blocks, James showed once again how he has mastered all parts of his game while giving the Lakers a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
But how does James fulfill this job description so consistently? At 35 years old? When opponents circle him on the scouting report? When he has done all of this for the past two months on the NBA campus, while also becoming one of the league’s leading voices addressing systemic racism?
“I’m not going to tell you exactly what I do. Because I would be giving my opponents a lot of my ingredients,” James said. “But let’s just say my wife is not enjoying what I do on a day-to-day basis inside the bubble getting ready for a game. Let’s just say that. I spent a lot of time, a lot of time on my body.”
The NBA allowed players’ family members to visit the Disney campus this week, which coincided with eight teams leaving following the end of the first round of the playoffs. James declined to have his two sons (16-year-old Bronny; 13-year-old Bryce) and five-year-old daughter (Zhuri) visit, saying they would not have much to do on this quarantined site.
James’ wife, Savannah, has arrived here. But she might not have much to do here, either. Not with James preoccupied with keeping his body and mind sharp. Not with James spending most of his free time studying game footage.
“Nobody spends more time focused on his body than LeBron James,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.
Vogel does not have the same window into James’ regimen as he does, obviously. But Vogel became more forthcoming, sharing that James is “incredibly diligent around the clock” with his sleeping habits, morning weight-training sessions and massage treatment. Shortly after the Lakers hired Vogel as head coach last summer, he arrived at the practice facility only to see James there at 6 am “getting his work in.”
Therefore, it should not be surprising James played well enough to minimize James Harden’s scoring (33 points), Russell Westbrook’s bounce-back game (30 points), Anthony Davis’ dominance (26 points, 15 rebounds) or Rajon Rondo’s resurgence (21 points, nine assists).
James accomplished much more. James surpassed Derek Fisher for most playoff