When the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James to a four-year contract on the first day of 2018 NBA Free Agency, it was viewed as a signal the storied franchise was on the road back to prominence.
The new-look roster struggled at the outset of the season but began to find their chemistry. No more was that evident than on Christmas Day, in what ultimately served as a turning point for the wrong reasons.
While the Lakers routed the Golden State Warriors on their home floor, it came at the expense of James and Rajon Rondo suffering long-term injuries. Despite initial optimism James would make a speedy recovery, a slip and subsequent strained groin sidelined him for six weeks.
According to Dr. Karen Joubert, a physical therapist and business woman who worked with James, recovery from the injury should’ve resulted in him missing the rest of the season:
The Lakers went 6-11 without James, tumbling from fourth place in the Western Conference standings to just outside of the playoff picture. He admitted to not being 100 percent upon returning, yet still played 40 minutes in an overtime win against the L.A. Clippers.
James was held out of the Lakers’ next game two nights later due to soreness. He’s since missed an additional game because of load management, and one other with a sore groin.
While the Lakers have managed the 16-year veteran’s minutes more closely as they were fading from the playoff picture, he’s consistently remained in the lineup. Though, his effectiveness and dominance have dropped off from expectations he’s set.
With the Lakers officially eliminated from playoff contention, James and head coach Luke Walton conceded the playing arrangement could change over the final 10 games.