LeBron May Have Just Flipped His Switch Earlier Than Usual

James dropped 51 points in Miami on Sunday. The performance lifted the Lakers to the win, but is the young team worse off in the long run if it has to rely on LeBron this soon?

It’s hard to say that James is “back,” per se. He coasted through his first month in Los Angeles, shooting a paltry 27.3 percent from deep and missing crunch-time free throws. James’s cruise control is better than most players’ top end — he averaged 26 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists through his first 13 games of the season. But it wasn’t enough — thanks to suspensions and a bad defense, the Lakers started 2–5. LeBron has turned it up since; he’s averaging 29.7 points a game and shooting over 50 percent from 3 in the past nine games. L.A. is now 9–7 and in seventh place in the West.

James’s exploding for this many points this early in the season added some intrigue to a mundane Sunday-night slate, but it also underlined the Lakers’ dilemma this season. They need their young core to step up, either to give James a roster that can carry him into his golden years or to increase certain players’ trade value. But the fact that James has had to flip his switch before December to keep them afloat is troubling.

That’s the rub of this Lakers season: James’s highlights are both a demonstration of his brilliance and an indictment of his new teammates’ lack of highlights — or even simply consistency. The good news is the Lakers have shown they can be competitive as long as LeBron is active. But as we creep toward the quarter mark of his first season in Los Angeles, it remains to be seen who will be joining him.