In the moment of defeat, LeBron James showed real greatness.
Lockers gave superstar Devin Booker a signed jersey with personal dedication and then posed for a picture with his opponent.
Booker of All People, with his 47 points, played a key role in the fact that James had to deal with a historic humiliation. (Everything about the NBA)
Because after the Los Angeles Lakers 100: 113 against the Phoenix Suns, the playoffs for the NBA Icon ended for the first time in the first round. Earlier in the day, James set a 14-0 record in this round.
Is LeBron James not 100 percent back?
But is the jersey swap a sign that James is sending the scepter to his younger heir, Booker (24 years old), and that his own era is approaching?
James did not deny it anyway. After his ankle injury at the end of the season, he said: “I never thought I would be 100 percent back in my life … it’s impossible.”
Anyone who watched the 36-year-old play against the Suns in the playoff series that lost 4-2 can conclude that James did not lie. At least in no time he reached his usual excellent form.
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In the attack, James yelled at himself ESPN As many as three as he threw 42 percent in his field. Not uncommon in today’s modern NBA – but it is worth noting that the player only used his terrific game ability and was occasionally drawn to the basket in the game when he wanted to set a precedent.
Also noteworthy: In self-defense, the superstar often acted cautiously, leaving his teammates alone in some scenes because he himself came back very slowly, not at all or only half-heartedly intervening.
Davis reduces injury lockers
Of course, the Lakers playoff defeat could easily be explained by the regular season injuries to superstars James and Anthony Davis and the Big Man injury in Game 4 of the series. (NBA Results and Schedule)
But that is only part of the truth – after all, there is no reason to believe that things will get better in the future. Davis in particular has suffered multiple injuries despite being 28 years old. He missed 36 games this season as he struggled with heel injury and calf pain.
Now he injured his hip in Game 4 – thanks to Davis, who was 2-1 at the Lakers at one point. Lockers fans should not have too much faith that Davis’ injuries, which are always fragile, will diminish with age.
This season Davis said succinctly: “We had parts, we could not be healthier. Most of it was me – a leading man who could not be on the field.”
LeBron can no longer carry a team alone
The fact that James was out for six weeks or 26 games with an ankle injury on March 20 was very painful for the team. Although he returned to the team in time for the playoffs, he did not reach his old best form.
With Davis, the Lakers were able to run the game mostly up to three-quarters without spending much. When it came down to it, he made the final quarter decision. It worked frequently during the championship season.
Carrying his team’s attack more or less alone for 48 minutes – as he sometimes did during the Caves period – is no longer possible for James. After all, its previous unimaginable explosiveness seems to be less and less.
The four-time title holder will be 37 years old this year, which is why a long summer break, which the Lakers certainly missed after winning the bubble, will not change that much.
Schrder & Co. Disappointing against Suns
James and the Lockers had a second problem. Although the Suns were somewhat weakened by the ill-fated playmaker Chris Paul, he was a great booker enough for the Lakers, and unlike James, he also received support from his teammates.
Without Davis, James would have searched for them in vain. In Game 4 the opening five (excluded by James) managed just 25 points, while in Game 5 it was only eleven. Dennis Schrder and Kentavius Caldwell-Pope never scored a single point. The German point guard in particular was considered the third best Lakers player and was rarely seen in the series.
In game 6 it finally went well for Schrder (20 points) and Caldwell-Pope (19), but no other players. Center Mark Casol did not manage a single point, while Kyle Kuzma, who is said to be the best scorer on the bench, managed just two points.
All-star Andre Drummond, who joined the Lockers via acquisition, said coach Frank Vogel was also not scheduled for the 6th game.
Competition for the Brooklyn Nets is intensifying
The biggest problem for the Lakers: As James slowly reaches a critical age in his basketball career, the competition is getting tougher. Despite finishing second in the regular season, it remains to be seen whether the Suns will win the title now or be considered one of the strongest teams in the NBA.
The Brooklyn nets in particular will be considerably stronger in the coming season. The superstar trio surrounding Kevin Durant, James Horton and Kyrie Irving are well established and can strengthen the bank with one or the other ring saucer at the free agency stage, they drop a lot of money on a single topic.
On the other hand, lockers are at a lot of risk. With the exception of James and Davis, only Guzm ,n, Caldwell-Pope and Casol have secure contracts for next season – and players like Schrடர்der for the former champion have some chances to replace them if their contracts are not extended due to a pay cap.
After Thursday’s defeat, the German international said at least the Lakers planned to return. In ESPN “I want to be a Lakers player for a long time and I want it to be fair,” he was quoted as saying.
Anyone who knows Schrder’s self-confidence knows that what is “reasonable” to him is that lockers are expensive. (Olympic qualification? That’s what Schrder says)
James continues to hold the championship title from Jordan
So, it remains to be seen whether the Lakers will be able to put together a similarly strong team for the upcoming season – or even add a better one to get a better chance at the title.
However, it will be very bitter for James as he does not have much time in search of Michael Jordan’s six championship titles, otherwise it will always be a clear plus point for the final King Jordan in the GOAT debate.
He himself puts the fate of next season in Davis’ hands: “Our No. 1 priority is to keep AD healthy, which will give us a better chance of winning next year.”
Nevertheless, it will only be enough for the title if James regains his old best form. Whether he thinks it is possible or not.