LeBron James has said this before.
LeBron is as self-aware as any athlete in professional sports. He understands he has played 60,721 minutes in his 18 NBA seasons when you include the playoffs — more minutes than Michael Jordan — and that at age 36 his body doesn’t bounce back like it once did. He understands all those miles have taken a toll, so he was just being honest after the Kings’ spoiled his return to the court Friday night after missing 20 games with a high ankle sprain. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get back to 100%. It’s impossible,” he said. “I don’t think I will ever get back to 100% in my career.”
That said, LeBron said he felt pretty good in his 31 minutes back on the court Friday and that he had put in the work to get back before the end of the season.
“For my first game in six weeks, I felt OK,” James said. “As far as my wind, I felt pretty good. As far as my ankle, it was a little tight at times, obviously. … But I came out unscathed and pretty good. So it’s a good start…
“It’s been urgency for me to get back ever since I got injured. So that’s just who I am,” he said. “You guys could have seen the logging of the minutes and hours per day that I was doing as far as rehab and treatment, it was a lot more than I slept. So over the last six weeks, that’s all I’ve been doing, is having an urgency to get back and play.”
This is just LeBron being honest. He puts in the work, pushes himself, is still an MVP-level player, but his body is not going to respond the way it did a decade ago. Anyone in their 30s can relate.
With a fully healthy LeBron and Anthony Davis back, the Lakers become the team that will set the bar in the West — if the Jazz, Clippers, Suns, or any other team wants a shot at a ring, they will have to clear that bar. We know the Lakers will play at a championship level, the question is can any of those other West teams get to that level? That’s what makes this the most wide-open playoffs in a long time: These teams can do it, but they all come with serious questions to answer first. (And that’s not even getting into the wild race in the East.)
All we can count on for sure is that LeBron and the Lakers will be ready for the challenge.