Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ most recent loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night, tensions were at an all-time high. The team fell to 29-31 on the season and their chances of making the NBA playoffs took yet another hit. This loss marks the second consecutive and four in the past five games dating back to before the All-Star break.
The Lakers didn’t look good in many areas, but after a frustrated LeBron James sounded off on his teammates, it seems one analyst believes the superstar is part of the issue. As Stephen A. Smith stated on ESPN’s First Take, this stems from the fact that something isn’t right with James, whether it’s his health or possibly just age.
“… God forbid that I say that LeBron James, that I point out that he’s playing no defense on too many occasions. That guys are blowing by him, that guys are salivating for the opportunity for LeBron James to be defending them so they can abuse him because he’s not 100 percent healthy. We recognize that ok?” Stephen A. Smith stated.
“And what I’m primarily saying about him not being the best player in the world right now is because LeBron James is not 100 percent healthy. If he’s 100 percent healthy and he’s got that extra motor in him than that would be different. But age, attrition, or injury, something is not right. He doesn’t look like himself.”
It’s an interesting comment and one that comes after a game in which James tallied a triple-double with 24 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. He did shoot just 8-of-23 from the field and missed all four of his 3-point attempts during the 110-105 loss to Memphis.
LeBron James’ Recent Play
Although the numbers look good on paper and James has posted a double-double in each of the past six games, the Lakers have gone just 2-4 over that stretch. The big issue seems to stem from the questionable defense of LeBron but also concerns over how the supporting cast is playing, which has remained a hot-button topic.
One play specifically against the Grizzlies went viral, as James was seen playing virtually no defense as his player knocked down a wide-open 3-pointer. After the play, he appeared to be frustrated with teammates for some reason, via Barstool Sports.
While LeBron’s struggles haven’t seemingly come on the offensive end, plays like this are highlighted from time to time and could point to the 34-year-old not being completely healthy. Whatever the case may be, the Lakers find themselves with an uphill battle to make the playoffs and need James firing on all cylinders.
Lakers’ Playoff Chances & Outlook
With 22 games remaining for James and company, the road ahead is a tough one. The Lakers face the Los Angeles Clippers twice and Sacramento Kings once, teams who are both ahead of them in the standings. Beyond that, the Minnesota Timberwolves have evened up their record with the Lakers following a win on Monday, and both teams are now three games back of the No. 8 seed.
One brutal stretch for the team will come over the final five games of the season, which is obviously less than ideal. To wrap up the year, the Lakers face the Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Clippers, Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers. Of the Lakers’ 22 games remaining, 16 of them come against teams either likely to make the playoffs or who are in the mix currently.