Pacers prepare for LeBron James' return, Lakers
INDIANAPOLIS — Caris LeVert and Myles Turner don't need a reminder of who their opponent is Wednesday night, and, more notably, who is returning. The Pacers' starters are well aware that Lakers superstar LeBron James could be back in action after serving a one-game suspension, the first suspension of his NBA career.
James has only appeared in eight of his team's 19 games due to ankle and abdominal injuries, with the Lakers currently sitting at 9-10, but he's still averaging 22.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.1 assists in his 19th season. James is also shooting and making more threes per game than ever before (career-highs at 2.6 makes on 7.4 attempts, 35.6%).
"He's one of the best players in the world. He has been since he got into the league," LeVert said. "He's obviously one of the best playmakers. He makes everyone around him better. He's shooting the ball a lot better from 3 this year as well, and I think he's gonna be anxious playing (Wednesday night). You know he had to sit out last game because of what happened in Detroit, so it'll be a good environment for us obviously with him playing."
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James was suspended one game for striking Pistons forward Isaiah Stewart in the face Sunday night during the third quarter of an eventual Lakers road win. The blow bloodied Stewart, who retaliated by trying to go after James and his teammates on multiple occasions. Stewart was restrained by officials, teammates and coaches, and both players were ejected. Stewart received a two-game suspension for his actions.
James served his one-game suspension Tuesday when the Lakers lost 106-100 to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, and he should be well-rested when he takes the floor at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Wednesday night.
Turner has played 23 games against James, including two first-round playoff loses when James was on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"LeBron's IQ is something that's kinda off the charts, and that's something that I think I've learned playing against him," Turner said. "People are obviously in awe of his talent and what not, but I think it's his mental. The way he approaches the game, the way he thinks of the game is what makes him the most dangerous."
Indiana (8-11) had arguably its best game of the season in a 109-77 beatdown at Chicago on Monday. Turner had 12 points and 10 rebounds, marking his fourth double-double of the season, while LeVert also had on 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
Both players said their team will be prepared to take on James and the rest of the star-powered Lakers. Anthony Davis is averaging 24.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, while their most notable addition, Russell Westbrook, is coming off his fourth triple-double of the season. The nine-time all-star was on the Washington Wizards last year, and averaged 27.3 points, 18.0 rebounds and 20.0 assists in three regular-season games against the Pacers.
"Someone like (Westbrook), he just brings a different approach to the game as far as his mentality and how explosive he is and just the way he plays," Turner said. "So you gotta be able to match his energy, if not surpass it. That's another one of the challenges that's ahead of us."
Follow IndyStar Pacers beat writer James Boyd on Twitter: @RomeovilleKid. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.