Lost at times amidst the catastrophe that was the Lakers’ 2021-22 season was the remarkable performance of LeBron James. While injury limited him to just two games over the team’s final 10 outings, he was dazzling down the stretch for the Lakers. Over his final 16 games, James averaged 33.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists on 53.5% shooting from the field.
By all accounts statistically, it was a marvelous season. But it was still one that ended up with the Lakers out of the play-in game and fingers pointed in all directions, including at James himself. With a season as disastrous as the one the Lakers had, it’s hard not to blame everybody in some capacity, but Kent Bazemore recently pushed back on the notion of laying blame at the feet of LeBron.
Speaking at an airport with TMZ, Bazemore was asked for his response to people pointing the finger at LeBron and stated, among other things, people needed to give him more respect:
“Dude was third in the league in scoring? I mean what else do you want him to do? He put his body through a lot this year to be there for us... The dude has done a lot, man, I mean he’s chasing Kareem. He’s done a lot for the game. He’s given a platform to a lot of people. He’s changing the world. So I mean, for him it’s bigger than hoop. For us it’s bigger than hoop. We aren’t just basketball players at the end of the day. So we get up, we work hard, we try to do the best we can, and that’s all we can do.”
Bazemore was one of many who could have the finger pointed at him for the overall disappointment. Signed as a player expecting to be a regular contributor, Bazemore ended the year playing in just 39 games despite being healthy for the vast majority of the season.
He spoke on that point of the Lakers underachieving as a whole this year as well.
“It wasn’t a year that anyone wanted. Everybody on the team wanted to win. We all came into it with the mindset to win. But it takes a lot to win in the league. So I mean at the end of the day you just see what went wrong and you try to keep improving. It’s not the last game the franchise is ever gonna play, so you get the team together and we get back after it again.”
In the same interview, Bazemore also stated that he wanted to come back to the Lakers next season, though that seems like an unlikely proposition.
James, though, will be a Laker next season, but it’s hard to see him having a better season than the one he just had. In reality, if the Lakers had a record most expected them to have this season, James would have been in the MVP conversation.
In finishing the year averaging 30.3 points per game — albeit in 54 games — James eclipsed the 30-point-per-game mark for just the third time in his career and first since 2007-08. It was only that 54-game number that kept him from winning the scoring title as he needed to play two more games to qualify.
But the shortcomings of so many others led to the purple and gold watching the entirety of the postseason, play-in game included, from their couches at home and kept LeBron far, far from the MVP conversation. He has some fault in the failure, but it’s hard to point too much of a finger at LeBron after how incredible his season was on the court.