LeBron James will not make the playoffs this season. That is a realistic possibility for the first time since the 2005 playoffs. This is the same player who has won the Eastern Conference Finals eight (!) consecutive seasons. He has played in the NBA Finals the last eight years! Watching LeBron play into June has become so commonplace, that he is as sure a thing as death and taxes.
The Los Angeles Lakers are currently sitting eleventh in the Western Conference, three games back of the eight seed, the final playoff spot. With only 22 games left in the regular season, and the fourth-hardest remaining schedule, there is real concern about LeBron not being able to carry the Lakers to the playoffs.
LeBron is on record last week, stating that he is now “activated”, which basically means Playoff LeBron is now in full effect much earlier than any prior season. Honestly, in order to gain the three games the Lakers are currently back of the eight seed, he needs to be in playoff mode and cannot coast for even one of the remaining 22 games. However, that still may not be enough.
Luke Walton is reportedly maintaining his job as head coach through at least the end of the season. With the trade deadline past, the roster will not change. Lonzo Ball will still come back from his injury, but that is not a huge roster change, as Rajon Rondo will be the starting point guard for the Lakers if they do make the playoffs. I honestly am not sure if it’s better for Los Angeles to make or miss the playoffs this year. If they get the eight seed, they will likely lose in the first round to the Golden State Warriors, regardless of how ungodly LeBron plays. However, on the flip side, if they miss the playoffs, they face criticism and potential skepticism from pending free agents who may reconsider joining LeBron in the City of Angels as he closes out his career.
Now, maybe this is exactly what LeBron wants.
Maybe LeBron James wants all the doubters. Maybe he wants every other player, team and analyst to think he is down and the Lakers are a dumpster fire that has no shot. Is it possible all those maybes are defintive facts? The Lakers current chance to make the playoffs, based purely off statistics, is 3%. I say “based purely off statistics” because that does not factor in Playoff LeBron. Being too young to have seen Michael Jordan play in his prime, LeBron James is the greatest basketball player I have ever seen. His block in the NBA Finals three years ago against the Golden State Warriors was the most athletic thing I have ever seen a human being do. It was impossible! It was the absolute perfect ending to the greatest NBA Finals comeback. We all know the scenario, the Cleveland Cavaliers were down 3-1 against the 73 win Golden State Warriors, the best regular season team of all-time, with statistically close to a 0% chance to win those NBA Finals. And what happened? Three wins later, two on the road in Golden State, and the Cavaliers had completed arguably the greatest comeback in all sports history.
So do I think LeBron will miss the playoffs this year? Categorically no! The potential GOAT will find a way to beat the odds again and make the playoffs. And the Lakers will not just sneak in. LeBron will take a book out of Malcolm Jenkins page, who, when the Eagles got the final Wild Card spot this year, declared “we aren’t sneaking in, we are kicking the door down.” Playoff LeBron is activated, and every Lakers game from now on is must see television.