The Los Angeles Lakers had a storybook ending to the 2019-20 NBA season, overcoming adversity in the Orlando bubble to win the franchise’s 17th championship in the first season after trading for Anthony Davis.
The Lakers’ title defense in 2020-21, on the other hand, was not so storybook as after a short offseason, they had a season filled with injuries, specifically to Davis and LeBron James.
While the hope was that they would be able to get healthy for the postseason to defend the title, that ultimately never came to fruition and the Lakers would up losing to the Phoenix Suns in six games in the first round.
The Lakers took a 2-1 lead in that series behind the stellar play of Davis, although he went down with a groin injury in Game 4 and was not able to recover, resulting in three straight losses for L.A.
In that series though, the Lakers weren’t the only ones trying to overcome injuries as Suns star Chris Paul also hurt his shoulder in Game 1. While Paul still played in every game that series, it was clear that he wasn’t at 100%.
Now, in an interview on the Old Man and the Three podcast with former NBA player JJ Reddick, Paul went more into detail on the severity of that shoulder injury:
“I done had some crazy injuries. This was probably one of the craziest ones because of dribbling. That’s what I do. Bubs, I would dribble, and the ball wouldn’t come back up. It was the scariest thing ever. I would dribble, and ‘Whoa. Why am I losing the ball? Why am I losing the ball?’ So, it was a shot that I hit, and I literally grabbed it, and I threw it – I threw it from the right elbow, and it went in. And I turned and looked at my brother, and I was like, ‘I don’t know how the hell that went in.’”
Paul then went on to question why the Lakers were even bothering to guard him since he couldn’t shoot:
“Game 2, went out there. I don’t even know why they was guarding me. I could not shoot it, I was faking the funk, though… If you go back and look at it, you will see from game to game, they wasn’t sure because they would like go trap and then they was like ‘should I close out to him? Should I close out to him?’ I could not shoot at all. I couldn’t raise my arm. If I did get my arm up and Donny would push my arm down, I couldn’t resist, it would just drop.”
Obviously if the Lakers had this information during the series then they would have done things differently. Ultimately it probably didn’t matter much though since the Lakers themselves were not healthy and the odds of them running the table to win another championship were very slim.
Paul’s shoulder eventually got healthier by the end of the series and he wound up having an outstanding playoff run, leading the Suns to their first NBA Finals before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks.
James gifted Booker signed jersey after series
After the Lakers were eliminated by the Suns, LeBron James paid his respects by gifting Devin Booker a signed jersey.
James switched his number from 23 to 6 in the offseason, so that jersey he gifted to Booker is the last 23 one he’ll ever wear.
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