LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers lost a war of attrition this season
LeBron James has hit on a keyword multiple times after the Lakers saw their back-to-back championship opportunity go: Drainage.
The Suns’ 113-100 win over the Lakers on Thursday night was just the final blow in what has been a grueling streak for James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the team. It started after Los Angeles won the 2020 title in the Florida “bubble” in October. The Lakers had a 71-day hiatus between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 campaigns, shortest offseason in NBA history.
They quickly moved from isolation on the NBA campus to the real world, although this presented its own challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The process of adhering to health and safety protocols has taken its toll on everyone from players and coaches to managers and trainers.
“I think I’m still thinking from the moment we entered the ‘bubble’ until today”, Jacques said. “It’s been exhausting – mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally draining… Every team has to deal with it, obviously. But with us and Miami, we’re obviously going long term in the ‘bubble’ and then coming back right away. on short notice this season, it’s been very exhausting. “
Then there were the injuries. When Davis fell in february with an Achilles problem, the Lakers were 21-7 and still had James available, which should have allowed them to survive. then Jacques suffered a high ankle sprain in March, and the rankings began to tumble. Los Angeles slipped to 7th in the Western Conference standings, but after the Lakers beat the Warriors in the preliminary round to earn a playoff berth, the dominant idea was that the full-strength team could still win. any opponent in a seven-game series.
But then Davis injured his knee, and later, his groin. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was assaulted. The injury virus continued to bite until the last game against the Suns when Alex Caruso suffered an ankle injury and was unable to return.
“When we were in good health, everyone was available, we saw the type of team we could be… We were riding”, Davis said. “We had the pieces. We just couldn’t stay healthy.”
There were also reasons Los Angeles didn’t rehearse. Off-season additions Dennis Schroder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol, Wesley Matthews looked good on paper, but the group never fully meshed before the playoffs. The Andre Drummond mid-season acquisition didn’t have a major impact. James and Davis did not live up to their high standards.
It should also be borne in mind that the Suns simply dominated the Lakers. Phoenix showed their impressive regular-season run was no fluke, knocking Los Angeles out of the gym in Games 5 and 6. James noted that it was “the best wins” in playoff time. playoffs. The Suns have been better this time around, and that’s why they’re heading into the conference semifinals.
The Lakers, meanwhile, will head into an offseason that could feature more staff turnover, but more importantly, a chance for everyone to take a break and fill their tanks.
“I just think it was all a challenge, playing until October and then starting the season as quickly as we did, it was going to be an uphill battle,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “None of our guys were prepped for training camp, and we tried to get through it and put our legs under us and condition them the right way. We made some moves. The front office did. made movements.
“We tried to deal with and overcome injuries as a coaching staff, just trying to find the right balance between keeping the guys there and developing them the right way. we faced were just too important. “