Friday, December 3

Why the Lakers should (and shouldn’t) be concerned about LeBron James returning from last injury

Early in his career, worrying about whether LeBron James could stay healthy was like worrying about seeing the sun in the sky the next day. It will be available to play. Forward.

James was an iron man with the Cavaliers and Heat, only occasionally missing games due to minor injuries or rest. However, since joining the Lakers in the summer of 2018, he has dealt with more serious problems. Most recently, he suffered an abdominal injury that has already knocked him out of multiple games, and it is unclear when he will return to the court.

No one should question the effectiveness of James when he is fully healthy, as he continues to record incredible numbers (24.8 points, 7.0 assists, 5.5 rebounds per game). However, with James in the middle of his 19th NBA season and fast approaching his 37th birthday, it’s fair to ask a big question: Should the Lakers be concerned about James’ advancement?

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Why the Lakers should be worried about LeBron James

The three biggest injuries of James’ career occurred while playing for the Lakers. He suffered a groin strain during the 2018-19 season, a difficult season that ended with Los Angeles missing the playoffs. He sat for an extended period in 2020-21 after spraining his ankle, and the Lakers fell to the Suns in the first round. Los Angeles has struggled without James this season, most notably losing a game to Oklahoma City in which it held a comfortable lead.

The logical answer here: What about that 2019-20 championship season? It worked pretty well, huh? Yes, but James experienced what was essentially a typical offseason before teams entered the Florida “bubble.” Without the benefit of those months off, would James have suffered another injury?

James’ health problems are even more alarming when his career with the Lakers is compared to his previous stints with the Cavaliers and Heat. From 2003 to 2018, he played in 94 percent of the regular season games, but has played in less than 75 percent of the regular season games from 2018 to 2021.

LeBron James Availability Percentage of regular season games played
Cavaliers (2003-2010)95 percent (548/574)
Heat (2010-14)94 percent (294/312)
Cavaliers (2014-18)92 percent (301/328)
Lakers (2018-2021)74 percent (173/233)

Source: ESPN statistics and information (valid as of November 4)

Just as concerning as his recent injury history is James’ volume of minutes played. The four-time NBA MVP has played 50,277 regular season minutes (fifth on the all-time list) and 11,035 playoff minutes (first on the all-time list) in his career. He has played in 266 postseason games, the equivalent of participating in three additional regular seasons, but with more intensity.

The guys ahead of James on the all-time minutes list – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Garnett – took great care of their bodies to extend their careers, but eventually collapsed and saw sharp drops in productivity. James has defied the aging curve and posted crazy numbers in his mid-30s, but Father Time is coming for everyone.

Simply put, when James sits down, he generally spells disaster for the Lakers. And he’s been sitting a lot more lately.

Why the Lakers shouldn’t worry about LeBron James

Yes, the injuries are mounting, but it’s worth adding some context here. The ankle injury was the result of a player throwing himself at James’s feet, not his body breaking. Abdominal and groin strains are obviously not ideal, but James has not required major surgery. We are not talking about an ACL or Achilles injury.

As for the “bubble” season, the flip side of the coin is that the Lakers had the shortest offseason in league history after capturing the title (71 days). They completed a 72-game regular season in less than 150 days. That’s not normal.

James certainly opposed the change in a series of tweets earlier this year, expressing concern about the injuries of multiple All-Stars.

Even after sustaining multiple injuries in recent years, James has been his usual star self. Unlike Nowitzki and Garnett, their numbers haven’t dropped dramatically at this stage in their careers.

James per season with the LakersPPGAPGRole playing gameSPG% FG3 percentage pointsMPG
2018-19 (55 games)
2019-20 (67 games)25.310.
2020-21 (45 games)
2021-22 (six games)

Every time James has been faced with questions about whether he could continue to perform at this level, he has given a forceful answer. He has spent seven figures a year to maintain your body, and has challenged the idea of ​​what is considered an athlete’s finest moment.

Maybe this really is the beginning of a new era for James, but are you comfortable betting against him? Again?

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