LeBron James recently said he wouldn’t turn his back on the Los Angeles Lakers fans, even if they boo him and his teammates — vowing to keep fighting to turn the season around.
The Lakers faithful has been vocal about its disappointment with the team’s results. L.A. has fallen 9.0 games behind the Denver Nuggets in sixth, the last place guaranteeing a spot in this year’s playoffs without having to compete in the Play-In Tournament.
What’s more, just a 2.0-game buffer separates L.A. and the 11th-placed Portland Trail Blazers — meaning the Purple and Gold can’t even be sure they’ll qualify for the Play-In Tournament in the first place.
The Lakers’ situation is becoming particularly dire, and some wondered whether the team’s stars — including James — should sit out the rest of the current campaign, getting ready for a push in 2022-23. However, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports James rules out the possibility of shutting his season down:
James, who has missed 17 games this season because of various injuries and most recently sat out five games from late January through early February with swelling in his left knee, has no plans to shut his season down at any point, sources close to James told ESPN. James is committed to play out the season, wherever it goes.
The Lakers have 20 games left to cement their place among Play-In teams. However, even if they compete in the pre-playoffs tournament, they will likely need two wins to advance to the postseason.
The Purple and Gold are currently 5.5 games behind the L.A. Clippers in eighth. Winners of a single-game matchup between teams with the seventh and eighth-best records in each conference will directly qualify for the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
The losing sides of that contest in both the West and East will then face winners of the clash between teams with the ninth and tenth-best records, battling it out for the No. 8 seed in the postseason.
Russell Westbrook won’t ‘quit’ on Lakers’ 2021-22 season
Russell Westbrook also doesn’t want to “quit” before the 2021-22 season officially ends for the Lakers. The 2017 NBA MVP said “it’s not in his genes” to give up while the ball is still in play.
“I’m not a quitter, it’s not in my genes,” Westbrook said.
“I don’t quit regardless of what the hell is going on. I’m a fighter until the end and if it don’t work, that’s cool, I can live with the results. But I’m never gonna give up or give in because of a little struggle that’s happening this time of the year.”
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