A lot of things went wrong for the Los Angeles Lakers this season, but it’s hard to argue that injuries weren’t chief among them. LeBron James missed the most games of his career, while Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Rajon Rondo and Josh Hart — among others — have all missed significant chunks of time.
Undoubtedly the most impactful among those absences was James missing a career-high 27 games total (by the end of the season) with a groin injury, but as badly as the Lakers collapsed on the court while was out, James told Howard Beck of Bleacher Report that it wasn’t just his productivity the team was missing:
“My injury was the worst thing that could have happened to our team at that point in time,” James told B/R. “Because I have a month-to-month leadership [plan] of how I lead. And I was right on point.”
How have we not heard about this month-to-month leadership plan before? Does LeBron have a calendar with different steps of leadership he takes each month with a new team? Is it available in a powerpoint presentation? This is incredible news.
Here is what I imagine it would look like.**
Oct. — Get to know everyone.
Nov. — Play super well so your teammates get attached to you and start to feel like the team can do something.
Jan. — Let the team know that you aren’t trying to trade everyone so they still follow you and don’t collapse on defense amidst an avalanche of trade rumors about a player who has the same agent as you.
Feb. — Activate “Playoff Mode”
March-June — Championship?
Well there you have it, because he was injured he just couldn’t do that January step. Oh well, otherwise this would have worked. Drat.
**It probably looks nothing like this
Okay, but snark aside, as Beck noted, instead of being able to kick his on-floor leadership plan into gear, James missed 18 of the Lakers’ next 19 games after straining his groin on Christmas Day, and well, you know the rest.
And while some might say that leadership should have been the one thing James could do from the sidelines, he told Beck that things aren’t that simple.
”You can lead a little bit in a suit,” he said, “but if you ain’t the coach, you can’t really. It’s different. You can’t do it.
”So being out 18 games, the longest of my career, was devastating,” he said, “not only to me personally, but to our team.”
This is something a lot of players throughout NBA history have spoken to, so it would seem to be believable. Even just recently, Lakers backup point guard Alex Caruso was talking after a game about how much more teammates listened to his advice now that he was out on the floor with them.
In the NBA, if you can produce, you’re looked to as a leader. If not, then it’s natural for that voice to take a backseat. Even if you’re LeBron James, apparently.
Because of that, ultimately we’ll never know if James’ month-to-month leadership plan could have worked out. What we do know are three things: That he feels optimistic that this summer will go better for the Lakers than the season did, that he’s willing to recruit other free agents to make that happen, and that if his plan could have gotten the team through this drama-filled year, then his book on leadership will definitely be worth buying for your office at some point when he publishes it in retirement.