The Los Angeles Lakers had missed the playoffs in each of the last five seasons. To help turn their fortunes around, they signed LeBron James. This was one of the Top 10 NBA storylines that we wrote about at the beginning of the season. Initially, the signing of LeBron James appeared to be a significant move for the storied franchise.
After all, LeBron James is a three-time NBA champion. Furthermore, the teams he’s played on had been to the Finals every year since 2011. After adding LBJ to the mix, the Lakers added a few other pieces as well. They also signed Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Michael Beasley. This group came to be known as the Meme Team.
Despite these eyebrow-raising moves, the Lakers got off to 20-14 start. This was good enough for the fourth-best record in the West. Then it happened.
On a Christmas Day game against the Golden State Warriors, LeBron James sustained a groin injury. The good news was the Lakers routed the defending champions 127-101. The bad news was that James would be out of the mix for 17 straight games.
During that stretch, the Lakers produced just six wins, which all but negated the team’s solid start. And following a loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Mar. 23, the Lakers were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Although the Lakers recently knocked off the Charlotte Hornets, they have dropped six of their last nine games. Bearing that in mind, the front office has wisely decided to sit James out for the reason of the season.
“After consulting with our team doctors and medical staff, we have decided to hold LeBron James out of games for the remainder of the season,” Lakers president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka said via ESPN. “This decision will allow his groin to fully heal, and is best for the future success of both LeBron and the Lakers.”
LeBron James finished fifth in the league in scoring with 27.4 points per contest. He also averaged 8.5 rebounds and ranked third in the league in assists with 8.3 per outing. Needless to say, these numbers were pretty respectable.
Unfortunately, his individual production wasn’t enough to keep the Lakers from missing the playoffs for the sixth straight year. And for the first time since 2004-05, a James-led team failed to qualify for the postseason.
Whether or not the front office takes the blame for not adding the right pieces around James remains to be seen. After failing to land Anthony Davis prior to the trade deadline, will they be able to attract a quality free agent?
Make no mistake; bringing James into the fold was a solid move. But if the team is going to return to its former glory, they’re going to need to surround him with more talent.