The saying goes, “You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” and that seems to be true for LeBron James and his old friend, the NBA Playoffs.
Barring a 15-games winning streak to close the season, the Los Angeles Lakers will likely miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. The last time the Lakers played postseason basketball, Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis were rookies.
James, on the other hand, hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2006 and has played in the NBA Finals every year since 2011. In the past, James has said he’d rather miss the playoffs entirely than not win in the Finals, but with playoffs looking like a near impossibility at this stage of the season, he’s circling back on that statement.
Following the Lakers’ 123-107 win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday, James said that he would have liked to play in the postseason this year, but he understands that it probably won’t happen this season (via Spectrum Sportsnet):
“Was that question asked after I actually lost in the Finals? So, that was definitely a moment thing there. That was, in the moment. I would actually rather miss the playoffs than lose in the Finals.
“I would obviously love for this team to be in the postseason and for me to be a part of the postseason is something I’ve always loved, but it’s just that right now now that’s not the hand that I was dealt. And you play the hand that you’re dealt and let the dealer shuffle the cards and give you another hand. I’ll be watching if we’re not in there, and it looks like we’re not, our chances are slim-to-none each game because so many teams in the West are playing well … (Last year) won’t be the last time I’ll be in the postseason.”
The Lakers could reasonably be back in the postseason as soon as next year, but a lot of decisions need to made before that happens.
Can the young players on the current roster develop into valuable players on a championship contending team? Is Luke Walton the right head coach for this team? Is the existing front office capable of building a team around James?
With any luck, those questions will be answered this summer, for better or for worse.