After injuring his groin on Christmas Day against the Warriors, LeBron James missed the next 17 Lakers games. But even after he returned LeBron was not quite the same. The explosion wasn’t the same. While he kept putting up impressive numbers, he couldn’t impact the game and lift the entire team up the way we had seen in seasons past.
As the Lakers’ season crumbled and the playoffs became less likely, the calls to get LeBron to shut down his season grew louder. He ignored them. He said he wanted to play, wanted to compete. At least until Saturday, when LeBron agreed to let the Lakers sit him for the final six games.
Luke Walton said Sunday all of that was true, but as the number of games remaining shrunk the Lakers pressed LeBron more to shut it down, and he eventually listened. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“He wants to play,” Walton said… “My understanding from the medical staff, they finally said, ‘Look, it’s just not worth it anymore. Let’s make sure you have a healthy summer.’ So that’s the decision that was made, and we’ll move forward without him on the floor for the final six.”
“Well, I think that goes back to him wanting to compete,” Walton said. “Even though it’s over, he wants to be out there playing with his guys. Eventually, as that time goes on and on, it’s easier to tell someone like that, ‘Let’s take care of your health right now.’ So that’s kind of how the decision came.”
That may be a little pro-LeBron spin — making sure Lakers fans know he wanted to be out there — but it likely has plenty of truth in it, too. There came a moment where even LeBron realized this was just more risk than it was worth.
LeBron finishes his first season with the Lakers having played 55 games (a career low) and averaging 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game. This will be the first time he misses the playoffs for 13 years and the first time he is not in the NBA Finals in eight years.