LeBron not bothered by early end to MVP race

6:54 PM ETDave McMenaminESPN Staff Writer CloseLakers and NBA reporter for ESPN. Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for ESPN.com and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09.LeBron James was playing his best basketball of the season when the coronavirus pandemic put the NBA schedule on hold and the…


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6:54 PM ET

  • Dave McMenaminESPN Staff Writer



    Close

    • Lakers and NBA reporter for ESPN.
    • Covered the Lakers and NBA for ESPNLosAngeles.com from 2009-14, the Cavaliers from 2014-18 for ESPN.com and the NBA for NBA.com from 2005-09.

LeBron James was playing his best basketball of the season when the coronavirus pandemic put the NBA schedule on hold and the Los Angeles Lakers still had 19 games left to play.

With the NBA set to restart in Orlando, Florida, next week with 22 teams instead of all 30, the league determined that voters for its season awards should consider only games played up through March 11 to choose the winners.

In other words: Pencils down, test time’s over. James won’t have a chance to continue to make a case for what would be his fifth MVP trophy, should he win it for 2019-20.

The Lakers star said Monday he’s OK with that.

“I’m not disappointed because things happen,” James said. “You control what you can control, and I can’t control that. As far as the MVP race, I think that I’ve shown what I’m capable of doing. Not only individually but from a team’s perspective, us being No. 1 in the West.”

The Lakers’ place in the Western Conference standings is a particular point of pride for James. He spent the first 15 seasons of his career playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat — Eastern Conference teams — before coming to L.A.

“There was a lot of conversation about, ‘LeBron can do those things in the East, but if he ever came to the West, what could he do?'” James said with a satisfied chuckle. “So I heard all of that. To be able to have our team at the top of the Western Conference and playing the way that we were playing at that time and the way I was playing, it’s definitely a good feeling.”

James averaged 25.7 points and a league-best 10.6 assists per game at the time of the NBA stoppage, making him the sixth player in NBA history to average at least 25 points and 10 assists per game in the same season.

He’s also the oldest player in history, at 35 years old, to lead the league in assists for the first time in his career, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And his scoring average is the second highest for a player in his 17th season, behind only Kobe Bryant’s 27.3 points per game in 2012-13.

James said he was unaware of the voting stipulation until a reporter asked him about it Monday. On Saturday, Lakers coach Frank Vogel endorsed James to win MVP, citing his performance leading up to the hiatus.

In L.A.’s 10 games after the All-Star break, James averaged 30 points on 55% shooting (37% from 3) to go with 9.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game. The Lakers went 8-2, including wins over the Boston Celtics, LA Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks, who are led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP and the favorite to win it again this year.

Antetokounmpo, 25, averaged 29.6 points on 54.7% shooting (30.6% from 3), 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists before the season was suspended. Milwaukee also edged the Lakers for the best record in the league, going 53-12, while L.A. was 49-14.

“I think those awards are always great throughout this time of year, to acknowledge the individuals that have had great years,” James said. “Not only from a player’s perspective but for a coach’s perspective, as well. So we’ll see what happens.”

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