The first season of the LeBron James era in Los Angeles was everything but a Hollywood scripted fairy tale, and if it was, it was written and directed by Tommy Wiseau.
Last season, James missed the NBA Playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season, which put an end to his 13-year playoff streak and his eight-year Finals streak, both of which were the longest active streaks in the league.
The Lakers’ underwhelming 2018-19 season can be attributed to a few things, including, but not limited to, the way they constructed the roster around James in free agency, and how they handled trade talks for Anthony Davis. But neither of those things were as detrimental to the team as the groin injury James suffered against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, which caused him to miss 17 consecutive games. The Lakers went 5-12 during that stretch.
James tried to carry the Lakers to their first playoff berth since the 2012-13 season once he returned from injury, but once injuries outside of his own started piling up on the team, it became clear that wasn’t going to happen — LeBron James was going to miss the playoffs.
The months that followed included a lot of discussions about whether or not James could still be the best player on a championship-contending team, and if Lakers were going to get their money’s worth out of the four-year, $154 million contract they signed him to in 2018. If the answer to those questions weren’t clear before, they should be now.
In his 17th season, James is as dominant as he’s ever been, just in a different way. For example, James, who’s ranked eight on the NBA’s all-time assist leaderboard, has never led the league in assists per game. This season, he’s averaging a league-best 10.9 assists per game, which is also a career-high for him.
James was also on pace to break his personal record for 3-pointers in a season, and he was doing it while shooting a decent 34.9% from behind the arc. For the season, he’s averaged 25.7 points, 10.6 assists, 7.9 rebounds and a steal per game, which is something no one else has done this season and something only a few players have done in NBA history.
He hasn’t just been good for his age; he’s been flat-out good, and he was he was turning the corner physically before the season was suspended.
In the 10 games James played before the season was suspended, he averaged 30.2 points, 9.9 assists and 8.6 rebounds. During that stretch, he led the Lakers to back-to-back wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard were healthy, they just couldn’t stop him — at least not when it mattered.
The question now is whether or not James can pick up from where he left off after three months away from the basketball court.
The Lakers will play 11 games, including three scrimmage games, before the postseason starts. Is that enough time for James to get where he needs to be physically for a deep playoff run? If not, is the player James was in the regular season good enough to lead the Lakers to a championship?
Only time will tell, and if there’s anything James has taught us this season, time isn’t an issue for him yet.