LeBron James is exhausted.
The 36-year-old entered his 18th season after a brief 72-day offseason, following a historic championship run within the 2020 NBA Bubble — solely to have his MVP-caliber season hindered by an ankle damage that lingered into the 2021 playoffs.
Injuries would in the end result in the Lakers’ first-round playoff exit, as they had been eliminated by the Suns in a 116-100 Game 6 loss on Thursday night time.
“I always think from the moment we entered the bubble to now, it’s been draining,” James said after his first profession first-round exit.
“Mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally draining. Every team has to deal with it, obviously. But with us and Miami going the long haul in the bubble and then coming right back on short notice to this season, it’s been draining.”
The injury-clad Lakers clearly ran out steam within the loss to Suns.
Anthony Davis’ absence to a nagging groin injury was an enormous loss to the Lakers on each ends of the ground. The massive man, who suffered the damage in Game 5, performed simply 5 minutes earlier than he exited Game 6 for good within the first quarter.
“We had the pieces,” Davis stated after Game 6. “We just couldn’t stay healthy. A lot of that is on me – a main guy who couldn’t stay on the floor.”
Davis, who missed 36 video games this season with heel accidents and calf soreness, stated he “wanted” to be on the ground, however his physique had different plans.
“Just the competitive nature in me to go out and help the team as best as I could. My body didn’t agree,” Davis stated.
Davis has taken accountability for his damage woes this season, however he wasn’t the one Laker coping with damage. On high of James not being one hundred pc after struggling a excessive proper ankle sprain in March, Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was coping with a bruised left knee that sidelined him for Game 4.
Pope would go on to play quarter-hour in Game 5 and was later a game-time resolution for Game 6, wherein he ended up enjoying 39 minutes.
The ailing Lakers’ didn’t run it again after a stellar 2019-20 season that culminated in a championship within the bubble. They couldn’t overcome the younger Suns, led by veteran Chris Paul, who shot the ball extraordinarily effectively within the close-out sport.
Devin Booker recorded 47 factors in 46 minutes, together with 11 rebounds and three assists.
Suns heart Deandre Ayton, guard Mikal Bridges and ahead Jae Crowder all shined all through the collection. Paul, who was additionally enjoying via an damage, was a drive on each ends of the ground.
Now, because the Suns advance to the second spherical to tackle the Nuggets in a best-of-seven collection, it’s again to the drafting board for the Lakers — whose principal concern ought to be getting wholesome of their early playoff exit.
For James, he’s acquired two issues on his agenda to start the offseason.
“I think I’m going to play for the Toon Squad this summer instead of the Olympics… Didn’t have much success versus the Suns, so now I’m gearing my attention to the Goon Squad here in July,” he stated, referencing the discharge month of his new “Space Jam” film.
“I’m gonna let the ankle rest for about a month, then I’m gonna gear up with Lola, Taz, Granny, Bugs and the rest of the crew. Hopefully see y’all at the match.”
The Lakers weren’t the one workforce that couldn’t parlay success within the bubble into the next the season. The defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat had been additionally eradicated within the first spherical of the 2021 playoffs by the Bucks. Of the ultimate 4 groups from the bubble, solely the Nuggets superior out of the primary spherical in 2021, because the Celtics had been additionally bounced by the Nets.