The fate of LeBron James is uncertain after the Denver Nuggets eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers in four games. Should it be the end of it, it’s inevitable to buy him with Michael Jordan yet again, now in the number of times he’s been swept in the playoffs.
Following the Nuggets’ sweep of the Lakers, LeBron James was eliminated in four games for the third time in his career. Considering that he has played in 53 playoff series, ‘El Rey’ has been swept in 5.6 percent of the series he has played .
When comparing him to Michael Jordan, the numbers are similar. ‘ His Airness’ played 37 playoff series and was only eliminated without winning a single game on two occasions, which gives a percentage of 5.4.
Although the percentage is similar, there are two fundamental differences. Jordan was never swept in the NBA Finals, and the two times he went winless in a series were when the playoff format was three wins in five games.
MJ was swept in the first round in 1986 and 1987 , both times by Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics. On the first occasion, Jordan posted averages of 43.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.7 assists; in the second he was held to 35.7 points, 7.0 boards and 6.0 assisted baskets.
James collected 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in Game 4 but missed a turnaround jumper and had a layup blocked with a chance to tie the game on each of the final two possessions of the 113-111 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
The Lakers built a double-digit lead in the first half, but lost it in the fourth quarter to be swept out of the Western Conference finals by the Nuggets. James was reflective, applying a wide-lens perspective to the loss when considering whether or not he could consider the season a success given the challenges the Lakers overcame to reach the conference finals.
“For me, it’s all about availability for me. It’s challenging, for sure,” he said. “It was a very challenging season. It was a pretty cool ride, but I don’t know. I don’t play for anything besides winning championships. I don’t get a kick out of making a conference appearance. I’ve done it. A lot. It’s not fun to me to not be able to be a part of getting to the finals.”
James said Monday that there’s no intended gray area in his statement that he has a lot to think about, clarifying in a follow-up: “If I want to continue to play, I got to think about it.”
James has two years worth $97 million remaining on his contract, but the second year is voidable.
The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, James passed Michael Jordan as the NBA’s leading scorer in the playoffs and has four NBA championships. He led the Lakers to the 2020 NBA title in the playoff bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to Monday, James had pointed to the opportunity to play on the same team with his son, Bronny, a likely member of the 2024 draft class.
I think it has to do with the adaptability of the basketball hoop, which you can put pretty much anywhere. Alleyway? Sure. Swimming pool? Absolutely. On a ski run? Yep. In the middle of a busy freeway? Okay, probably not. That sounds like a bad idea unless you plan on committing insurance fraud.
Throwing balls into hoops is just good, clean, fun, only made better by introducing interesting environmental challenges and obstacles, like snow or water.
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As Troy Brown Jr. added, “I feel like that’s human nature to be his age and be playing at the level that he’s playing at putting his body through that much work. I mean, I don’t blame him for feeling that way. Personally, for me, I feel like because of his love of the game, he will continue to play.”
The Lakers’ campaign started with five straight losses in the regular season and ended with four straight losses to the Denver Nuggets in the conference finals, but Ham said his first year on the job has only set the franchise up for success going forward.
“Make no mistake about it, this is not just a one-shot deal,” Ham said. “We’re going to be around; we’re going to be a problem to be dealt with. I can guarantee you that.”
Ham’s vow would be helped out substantially by James returning to play a 21st season. The 38-year-old James is under contract for next season and coming off a campaign in which he was named to the All-NBA third team but 2022-23 took its toll.
A source close to James called it a “raw time” for the forward. James is digesting a season that went from disastrous, with him suffering a foot injury that cost him a month late in the campaign; to thrilling, as the Lakers upset the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round then dispatched the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the second; to devastating, as his 40 points in 48 minutes weren’t enough to lift L.A. to a win in Monday’s Game 4 against the Nuggets.
“Clearly, he’s got the right recipe because to be able to go from doctor opinions that are saying, ‘Oh, your season may be over’ to ending the way he did last night is breathtaking,” Pelinka said.
While the Lakers will give James his space, Pelinka said that as long as the league’s all-time leading scorer is on board, the franchise will continue to play through James and Anthony Davis as its building blocks, with younger talent around them. Like James, Davis is under contract for next season. Max Christie is the only other player with a fully guaranteed deal with L.A. for 2023-24. Jarred Vanderbilt has a small partial guarantee, but with a $4.7 million total deal for next season, the Lakers will surely pick up his option.
“LeBron and AD as two pillars is, to us, an unmatched combination that we’ll continue to lean into and build around,” Pelinka said. “We’re proud of that combination of superstars and want to continue to invest in that and invest in advancing the growth we had this year into next season.”
James and Davis might comprise the engine, but the team will still need wheels to make it go, and the Lakers will have several crucial roster decisions to make.
Russell is eligible to sign a two-year, $67.5 million contract extension until June 30, after which he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.
L.A. has team options on Malik Beasley ($16.5 million) and Mo Bamba ($10.3 million) for next season. Both Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves are restricted free agents, meaning L.A. can match any outside offers they would receive from other teams to retain them.
“I would say this resoundingly clear Our intentions are to keep our core of young guys together, and I think we saw incredible growth and achievement by Rui, Austin,” Pelinka stated. “I could go down the list: Vando, D-Lo. We have a lot of great young players, and we want to do our best to fit the puzzle together.”
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