On Saturday (30th March), the Lakers announced their plans to shut LeBron James down for the remainder of the season. Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka released the following statement announcing the news.
“After consulting with our team doctors and medical staff, we have decided to hold LeBron out of games for the remainder of the season. This decision will allow his groin to fully heal, and is best for the future success of both LeBron and the Lakers.”
It is a decision that does not come as a surprise, if anything the surprise is that it has not occurred sooner with the Lakers’ playoffs hopes ending weeks ago. James has been on a minutes restriction since early March and has been sitting out on the second night of back-to-backs. The restriction had been agreed on by both the Lakers’ front office and James’ camp.
LeBron James featured in 55 games during his first season in the purple and gold. Through those games he posted averages of 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and 1.3 steals, on 50.4% shooting from the field and 33.9% from three. To say that many believe that James has been having an ‘off’ season, he has matched his career average for points (27.2) and surpassed his averages for rebounding (7.4) and assists (7.2). Not bad for a washed up 34-year-old, aye?
However, concerns over James’ health has been a topic of discussion for quite some time now, following the groin injury he sustained on Christmas Day which forced him to miss 17 games. The 34-year old had previously never missed more than 13 games in an entire season.
At times this season, especially upon his return from injury, James has certainly started to look his age. There has been a clear lack of explosion in getting to the rim which is huge facet of his game. Although, it has been suggested that this has been a result of James still carrying the injury he obtained back in December. On the defense end, well the least said about that, the better. The passive aggressive sighs and shrugs certainly haven’t helped team matters either.
On the body language topic, a recent report from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin did reveal that the Lakers held a players-only meeting during their road trip to Memphis to address James’ mannerisms.
“The meeting in Memphis was a retort of sorts. In what became an open forum, several players spoke up. Players focused on James’ inconsistent body language throughout the year. The four-time MVP copped to the critique, telling his teammates that, in essence, cutting out behavior like slumped shoulders and sideways glances has been something he has tried to work on his entire career.”
Even though this season did not exactly go to plan, LeBron James certainly had moments that showed that he still belongs at the very top of the NBA. Also note that the Lakers were 20-14 and in 4th place in the Western Conference when James’ injury occurred.
In that same game the Lakers recorded a memorable 26-point road victory over the Golden State Warriors. Who knows where the team would have been if that injury had been avoided. In fact, the Lakers’ starters this season have only featured in 23 games together. Injuries have certainly been a widespread issue to the roster throughout the season.
Before the decision was made to end James’ season he appeared to be back to his old self (before the injury), leading the Lakers to wins against the Kings, Wizards, and Hornets. James will now have an extended off-season for the first time in 13 seasons, with his team not making the playoffs. Such time should give him the chance to recover both physically and mentally.
Fingers crossed that he can stay healthy and roll the recent form over to next season, where the Lakers’ front office will frantically look to add further talent to assist James.