The Los Angeles Lakers are winning with the best defense in the league thus far into the season, and it’s LeBron James who is helping lead the way. The 17-year veteran is feeling good for the first time in a while. And it shows.
“I'm playing injury free. I'm not injured. My quick twitch is back. My speed is back, my strength is back,” James said, via ESPN.
James: quick twitch, bounce, reaction time is back
James ranks ninth in defensive win shares (.194) for those who’ve played in at least three games. Following years of a limited commitment to defense for the star, it’s surprising to some he’s been back at it even though the Lakers are focused on defense this season.
James is also less than a year removed from a torn left groin sustained on Christmas Day last season. He missed a career-worst 18 games and the Lakers were privately concerned it was still bothering him at the All-Star break.
It was. But it doesn’t seem to be anymore.
"Playing with a torn groin last year — even when I came back it was still partially torn — it was difficult to be able to move and shift like I'm capable of doing that defensively," James said. "For me, I just take the challenge. I love being challenged. Coach [Frank Vogel] challenged me, AD [Anthony Davis] challenged me, I challenged myself.
"I put a lot of hard work into my offseason by getting my quick twitch, getting my bounce back, getting my speed back, my reaction time back. My mind has always been there. That's what it's all about."
James also had a long offseason to work with since the Lakers missed the playoffs.
Davis is the only other Lakers player leading James on the defensive stat sheet, with a defensive win share ranked fifth (.218) of those who’ve played at least three games. He leads the league in blocks with an average 3.0 per game (18 total).
Lakers defense fuels bounce back from opener
The Lakers stumbled in the season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers, but have knocked out five consecutive victories since. In those wins they’ve allowed more than 96 points only twice, one of which was an overtime victory, 119-110, against the Memphis Grizzlies.
As a team they rank first in defensive rating, holding opponents to an average 96.3 points per game and a 30.2 percent shooting mark. They’ll see if the trend continues Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls.
More from Yahoo Sports: