As it currently stands, the Los Angeles Lakers remain in the playoff race only mathematically. Despite the return of LeBron James from injury, head coach Luke Walton’s team was unable to get over the hump and a recent five-game losing streak ended any hopes of a postseason appearance.
This is something James hasn’t dealt with in quite some time as he has made eight consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. Furthermore, James hasn’t missed the playoffs since his second season in the league.
With the Lakers deciding to scale back James’ minutes, the franchise is obviously focused more on the future at this point, but that didn’t stop LeBron from taking over during the Lakers win over the Chicago Bulls.
It was the type of performance that earned him praise from Walton, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“That’s what he does. He got out in transition a few times, but he wants to win. He’s one of the all-time great winners that our league has ever seen. I know this hasn’t happened to him since early, early in his career. So he’s frustrated with it, too, and he’s continuing to battle out there. He did a really nice job of helping us get a win tonight.”
James finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds, capping off his night with a huge alley-oop off the backboard from Josh Hart. James added a little dance after throwing down the jam, showing a bit of happiness that hasn’t been seen recently as the Lakers’ playoff hopes fell apart, undoubtedly frustrating him as Walton noted.
Obviously the expectation heading into this season was for James’ playoff run to continue and the Lakers’ drought to end. But they instead are headed toward a sixth consecutive season of missing the playoffs.
Meanwhile, James has continued to play hard, even in limited minutes and in this case it helped Walton and the Lakers earn a much-needed win.