LeBron's First Round Elimination: Father Time Or Just Unlucky?
LeBron James was eliminated from the NBA Playoffs at the hands of the No. 2 seed Phoenix Suns in six games.
LeBron's time with the Lakers has certainly been strange.
An NBA Championship during the Disney bubble sandwiched between missing the playoffs in his first year and a first-round exit at the hands of Devin Booker's Suns. Booker's 47-point explosion was the most in a playoff performance by any James-led team. Prior to this loss, James was 14-0 during his career in the first round.
Despite being 36 years old, LeBron's third season with the Lakers certainly had some unlucky bumps in the road.
“I always think from the moment we entered the bubble to now, it’s been draining,” James said after being eliminated from the first-round for the first time.
Father Time Catching The King?
Some of the evidence is just not arguable.
LeBron is 36 now. He has been playing at basketball's highest level for half of his entire life. In 2021, he missed 27 regular season games, the most of his career, due to a turned ankle.
When the NBA announced a return to play after just a two month hiatus following the 2020 NBA Championship, a repeat seemed unlikely for an aging James, who disagreed with the optics of the bubble, return to play, and the NBA's new play-in tournament, which the Lakers had to eventually participate in.
Quite frankly, LeBron seemed like a grumpy old man at times throughout the past year and it has turned off a lot of basketball fans.
While LeBron is certainly aging, this season was a "draining" one for the kid from Akron.
On top of LeBron missing more games this year than ever before, Anthony Davis only played 36 regular season games this season due to a calf/Achilles injury followed by a groin strain that caused him to miss significant time in the playoffs.
Newcomers Dennis Schröder, Montrezl Harrell, Marc Gasol and Wesley Matthews simply did not gel the way that the Lakers expected them to. Late-addition Andre Drummond was completely useless and did not see the floor despite being healthy for the team's final game.
"We never really got an opportunity to see our full team at full strength," James said. "Whether due to injury, or COVID, or something going on with our ball club this year, we could never get in a rhythm."
LeBron will not become a free agent until 2023, so erase a potential relocation off of your offseason bingo card.
James was oddly laid back in his press conference after being eliminated in the first round for the first time.
In a weird way, he almost seemed relieved.
James spoke about the desire and need to get himself and Davis back to full strength before the beginning of next season. LeBron did not hint at any big offseason trades or acquisitions, instead, spoke of how difficult it was for this team to gel due to lack of playing time together. At length, he spoke of how draining playing basketball during a global pandemic has been for his team, especially just a few months removed from a long championship run.
He did not indicate that he would play for Team USA this summer, instead joked that his focus was on beating the "Goon Squad" in his upcoming Space Jam 2 movie this July.
The Reign Isn't Over
Basketball fans seemingly don't know what to do with themselves without LeBron in the playoffs. Pundits are already insinuating that this is the beginning of his demise.
However, James is due for a full offseason of rehab and rest. It's something that he has rarely had due to so many deep runs to the NBA Finals. His personal performances are still just as legendary as when he was in his 20s.
This first round exit seems like a gigantic set up for another heroic run at the title next year by a pair of rested superstars.
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