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DelVecchio: LeBron can’t be held responsible for injury, poor supporting cast

| Thursday, March 7, 2019

The NBA season is coming down the home stretch with just about a month of games remaining in the regular season, and the playoff race involving numerous teams desperate to make the cut is just starting to heat up. Of these teams, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are currently on the outside looking in.

The Lakers have been on a downward spiral since James’ groin injury on Christmas Day, and they haven’t recovered since. While LeBron continues to put up monster numbers in his 16th season, his supporting cast just isn’t good enough to catapult the Lakers into the postseason. Currently, the Lakers (30-34) are tied for the 10th seed in the Western Conference and sit 5.5 games back of the eighth-seeded San Antonio Spurs. To make matters worse, the Lakers have the fourth-toughest schedule over the course of this final month of games, making it all the more unlikely for LeBron’s streak of 13 consecutive postseason appearances and eight-straight Finals to continue. Unfortunately, it seems as though LeBron will be watching the playoffs as a spectator this season for the first time since the 2004-2005 season.

With this being said, much of the blame for the Lakers struggles this year has wrongfully been placed on James himself. Yes, the undeniably best player on the planet, who just so happens to be averaging 27 points, 8.7 rebounds and eight assists per game on 51 percent shooting from the field has been the scapegoat for the Lakers’ turmoil.

There is plenty of blame to go around in Los Angeles for what has become an unimpressive season for the Lakers, but despite all of the drama surrounding the franchise, this year’s campaign wouldn’t feel like a disaster if the Lakers were still on track to make the playoffs. While I’m disappointed that I even have to speak the facts of the matter on this subject, I feel as though it’s necessary for people to stop letting their hate prompt them to blame a world-class athlete — and the greatest basketball player of all time for that matter — for things that were out of his control.

When LeBron first went down, the Lakers were playing very promising basketball and building a solid case as the four-seed in the West. As of last season, James has played in 94 percent of possible games in his career, and he has never missed a playoff game. Furthermore, LeBron has never played in fewer than 84 percent if one season’s games. Even last season — his 15th in the league — he played in all 82 games. LeBron’s durability is mind-boggling, and yet when he finally misses games people turn a blind eye to his history of being reliable and consistent. So if you want to blame a man who has pretty much never been hurt in his long tenure in the NBA for finally straining his groin in year 16, go ahead.

Additionally, the Lakers were on the verge of landing Anthony Davis at the trade deadline, and, when they didn’t, animosity arose between the Lakers players — all of the trade rumors had an adverse effect on Los Angeles’s young core. On top of all that, Lonzo Ball gets injured right as he is beginning to emerge into the player he was promised to be, and the Lakers ended up playing a key stretch of games without both of their point guards in Ball and Rajon Rondo. Let’s also not act like the Lakers are getting blown out of every contest. Despite their recent struggles, they’ve played some close games throughout this miserable stretch in which they’ve gone 3-9 since February.

Once 17-10, the Lakers have gone 13-24 since Dec. 11, including the 18 games James missed due to injury. James leads the Lakers in points, rebounds and assists, but hasn’t gotten consistent play from his younger teammates. While people will tell you that this is exactly the time for the four-time MVP to step up and put his team on his back, there’s only so much someone can do. It’s not like the man has two backs to carry his Lakers team on, but if he did they’d surely be on top of both.

So, you can take all of this into account, dismiss it and when the Lakers do miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, you can just blame it all on LeBron James. Trust me though, he’s used to it by now. But, if you are going to blame LeBron for the unraveling of the Lakers season, acknowledge that you are doing it out of blind hatred, and not because the multitude of different factors that actually played a role in the Lakers struggles.

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