To say last season was a disappointment for the Lakers would be an understatement. From fans to players, everyone feels the letdown in the City of Angels. The preseason favorite to represent the East in the NBA Finals, failed to even make the play-in games. The Lakers finished with a record of 33-49 and finished as the seven seed.
In fairness to the Lakers, the big three (LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook) did miss a combined total of 72 games. All but four of those missed games came from James and Davis, who battled various injuries throughout the year. Regardless of the situation, the Lakers not even making the playoffs is a huge blow to the team and fans.
This has raised questions about the level LeBron James is playing at. The concerns aren’t so much how well he’s playing, because he is still excellent when he’s healthy. It’s more of a question of how much he can carry a team throughout a season. He has dealt with star teammate injuries before. Dwyane Wade missed 80 games in James’ four seasons in Miami and Kevin Love missed 45 games in James’ final two years in Cleveland. In those six seasons, James’ teams made the Finals every year. Yes, expecting a team that battled injuries all season to make the playoffs and make a Finals run is a little over the top. However, James has almost put the precedent on himself. James has done plenty to show that he is, at the very worst, the second best player to ever play the game. To others, this was a blemish on his resumé.
Laker fans are used to their team being near the top of the standings year in and year out. Just seven times since 1994 have the Lakers had a losing record. Six of those seven seasons came during the injury riddled end of Kobe Bryant’s career and the few seasons following. In that same 28 season span, they made more Finals than they had losing seasons. This season may not have come at a worse time, as the mini-series ‘Winning Time’ made its debut just a couple months ago. The series, in a normal Laker season, would have gotten fans even more excited for the upcoming playoffs. Instead, it reminded fans of how much of a disappointment the season has been.
All of this to say, the Lakers will likely be right back in the thick of things come next season, assuming LeBron doesn’t decide to take his talents elsewhere. The LA Lakers fans have been spoiled since the beginning of time so a little bump in the road just makes the comeback that much sweeter.