It sure doesn’t sound like LeBron James is going to be playing in the Olympics this summer. The 36-year-old will be sitting out not just to focus on
freeing his family and saving the Looney Tunes promoting his upcoming “Space Jam” sequel, but also to get his body right after an expedited season that left him nursing multiple injuries by the end of it, most prominently the high ankle sprain that derailed both his MVP candidacy and the Lakers’ title hopes.
The good news is that James told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he’s confident that a little rest is all he needs to be ready to roll for next season:
The four-time champ was 85% healthy for the series, but that percentage fluctuated game-to-game, sources said.
The high-ankle sprain was the main reason he wasn’t able to routinely penetrate and attack the paint like he’s accustomed to doing.
“I’m not worried about anything,” James told Yahoo Sports. “I just need rest. I was told that from the beginning. I gave what I had.”
The Lakers needed all of it. With Anthony Davis dealing with a groin strain that ultimately forced him out of the series and no other reliable playmakers, even a limited James was their best option to create a basket for himself and others. That he was not at 100% wasn’t news to anyone watching, and neither was the idea that he was likely driving to the cup less as a result.
So good on James for going out there for his teammates, but if there is one thing the Lakers really need to prioritize this offseason beyond getting more shooting, it’s making sure that the team isn’t so reliant on James’ playmaking that they need him to initiate almost everything even when working at less than 90% and barely able to drive to the basket. That was supposed to be Dennis Schröder this year and could be Talen Horton-Tucker in the future, but they need to prioritize finding someone they can rely on now.
With limited cap space, the above task won’t be easy, but general manager Rob Pelinka is going to have to try and figure something out. Because while we can all hope that James is able to stay healthier next year and acknowledge that his injury this season was a freak accident, he’s also going to turn 37 midseason. The team needs backup options that can lessen his load, whether that means paying Schröder and trusting that he’ll be more reliable in a non-pandemic season, hoping Horton-Tucker makes a leap, finding a veteran to chase a ring, or swinging an unexpected trade.
We’ll see if they go with any of those options or others in a little less than two months, when free agency starts on Aug. 2. Until then, James will have plenty of time to rest and recover. Maybe he can use some of it to get some good tampering in and try to find a solid ballhandling option to spell him? If Kyle Lowry gets an unexpected Space Jam cameo via reshoots, we’ll know LeBron got it done.