It was an unfamiliar and haunting sight: LeBron James, limping. For almost two decades, James has been the ironman of the NBA. More than 1,300 games. Another more than three seasons it pays off in the playoffs. Almost 50,000 minutes played. Only twice has James adapted to less than 85% of his team’s games. When James collapsed on the Staples Center floor on Saturday, it was fair to wonder if he was heading for someone else.
It’s too early to assess the long-term impact of James’ sprained ankle against Atlanta. The Lakers have included James indefinitely, while James tweeted that “the way [to] recovery begins now. “High ankle sprains can generally have a longer lifespan. But this is James. Says Montrezl Harrell: “We forget he’s human.”
James’ injury coincides with the continued absence of Anthony Davis, the Lakers forward who has been out since Feb. 14 with a calf injury. Without a schedule for Davis’ return, the last official update came on March 12, when LA ruled Davis for at least two more weeks, the Lakers may be forced to spend the rest of the month, or more, without their best two. players.
Which raises two questions:
Is a playoff spot in jeopardy?
And if it isn’t, does any of this really matter?
The Lakers are firmly entrenched in the Western Conference playoff group, two and a half games behind the top-seeded Jazz and, more importantly, six and a half above the Warriors, ninth. The schedule isn’t easy: Los Angeles plays Phoenix and New Orleans this week before embarking on a four-game trip down the East Coast, part of the NBA’s sixth toughest remaining schedule, but the Lakers would have to suffer a major meltdown. . Los Angeles still has plenty of firepower with Harrell, Kyle Kuzma and Dennis Schroder, as well as the highest-rated defense in the NBA, albeit one that has been anchored by Davis and James.
“We have to stick together as a team,” Schroder said. “That’s it. Next man’s mentality, and that’s it. I mean, let’s talk to [James] and see what’s going on, but at the end of the day, it’s the next man’s mindset. So whoever comes in, get ready to play and we still have some wins to come by. “
The Lakers are likely to fall through the ranks, but the seeded, for this group, may not matter. Fans are slowly beginning to return to NBA stadiums, but the league is highly unlikely to allow full houses before the end of the season, mitigating home-court advantage. James, whose Cavs teams finished atop the conference standings only once in his last four years in Cleveland, is no stranger to playing off the home court. Theoretically, the Lakers will lose a comfortable first-round matchup, but LA opened the final postseason against the red-hot — and healthy — Trail Blazers… and knocked out Portland in five games.
Furthermore, it can be argued that a prolonged rest could help these Lakers. Only 71 days separated the end of the NBA’s bubble season and the beginning of it. The expectation was that LeBron would enter the new season, ex-Laker Danny Green joked that James might not even appear during the first month of the season, but he has played at full speed, keeping the Lakers on top of the Western Conference. … and lead James to the head of the MVP race in the process. A long rest can be beneficial.
It’s all about James and Davis making a full recovery, of course. Davis’ injury is more complicated; Minor calf injuries, if not fully healed, can lead to larger ones. But if the Lakers get James and Davis back in mid-April, if they can spend the final month of the season getting back into shape, if LA enters the playoffs with the core of the team that made its way to a championship last time. season intact, any mid-March drama will be an afterthought.
Is James’ injury important? For now yes.
Ask again in July.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.