Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James grimaces after straining his left groin, during the second half against the Golden State Warriors in an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2018, in Oakland, Calif.
James is averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists during his first season with the Lakers. At some point, we need more passion, we need more fight. The team is 1-3 without James, who strained his groin last week.
At just 21 years old, it may be unfair to ask either of them to carry the franchise even in the short term, but the rash of injuries have necessitated someone stepping up to lead the way.
That's why, when Luke Walton answered a question on Sunday about a lackluster performance from Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, his message didn't go unnoticed. "We've had moments in most of these games on the road where we could have won".
Barea could only laugh when told he led the team with three assists, saying, "You can't win the game like that".
The lack of offensive options was clearly evident as the Lakers' starting five accounted for just 34 points on 11-for-41 shooting.
Prior to the injury, James showed no signs of showing down. Guard Rajon Rondo is recovering from surgery on his finger in late December and won't return until at least late January, and Kyle Kuzma missed Friday's game against the Knicks and is questionable for Sunday.
Brandon Ingram is starting to embrace his increased workload with Los Angeles, but it's clear that this team doesn't function almost as well with James on the sideline.
The Lakers badly needed a strong response after last night's game and finally offered one on Monday.
And they need his boosts sooner rather than later. During the six-game stretch he's shooting 42.2 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from beyond the arc with more turnovers (21) than assists (20) and almost as many shots (102) as points (111). For perspective, the Philadelphia 76ers are second-to-last and have a mark four points per 100 possessions better.