Kyrie Irving‘s Celtics and LeBron James‘ Lakers are headed in opposite directions. That was evident Sunday when LeBron had a triple double — 25 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists — and it didn’t matter because the shorthanded Lakers couldn’t slow down Irving (30 points) and the Celtics, and Boston cruised to a 120-107 win.
Irving and the Celtics are headed to what they hope is a deep playoff run. LeBron and the Lakers are headed to early vacations and a summer of questions and speculation about how the organization lost its way and if it can be salvaged with some free agent signings (and maybe a trade or two).
LeBron is about to miss the playoff for the first time since 2005, and after missing 17 games due to a groin injury he is not able to put this squad on his back and carry them to the postseason. It’s a unique situation. Irving, the former LeBron teammate and once-again friend, feels for LeBron, he told Joe Varden of The Athletic.
“I feel for him. I really do. I feel for him,” Irving said. “I’m very empathetic towards it because how much he wanted to play during that time when he messed up his groin.”
That is undoubtedly true — LeBron had never missed that kind of time with an injury, and for a competitor like him sitting and waiting would be a subtle form of torture. LeBron watched his team struggle through those games, fall out of the playoffs, and there was nothing he could do. Irving understands the frustration of watching, he did it last season after knee surgery (although the Celtics surged to the Eastern Conference Finals without him).
For Lakers fans who want to believe it, Irving’s comment will fuel their hopes that he uses his free agency this summer to join LeBron and the Lakers. That rumor is certainly floating around the league, but what I have heard from sources is not to bet on it. What Irving does this summer is unpredictable and in large part will be influenced by what happens in the playoffs. And the pitch Danny Ainge will make to Irving this summer about what is coming in Boston. And the pitch the Knicks will make. And… you get the idea. There are a lot of variables.