Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James didn’t play on November 7 against the Utah Jazz due to a left foot injury. Without the four-time MVP in the lineup, the purple and gold lost by 23 points to drop to 2-8 on the season.
Following the Lakers’ loss to the Jazz, head coach Darvin Ham sounded off on James’ injury.
“It’s nothing structurally wrong with the foot. It’s just it gets irritated,” Ham said. “But he’s stepped on people’s feet here and there the last couple of games and he’s tried to manage it the best he can. And we saw tonight as a good opportunity to just rest it.”
James is averaging 24.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.1 assists this season while shooting 44.7% from the field, 21.0% from beyond the arc and 68.2% from the free-throw line. The four-time Finals MVP has a player efficiency rating of just 19.2, the second-lowest of his storied career.
“Well, he hasn’t been scoring as much as he would probably like and the rest of us as well. But he and I had a great one-on-one conversation this morning at breakfast,” Ham said. “But I got confidence in the kid. For him to be managing his foot and viral infection and 20 years of miles driven throughout this league and to still come and be in peak performance, that type of shape. He really wants to be out there.”
The Ringer: Father Time Is Chasing Down LeBron
The Ringer’s Michael Pina believes father time has caught up to James, who turns 38 in December and has a ton of mileage on his body. The Lakers star is in his 20th season and has played in 10 NBA Finals.
“For the first time in his entire career, LeBron’s team is more efficient in the half-court when he’s off the floor than on it,” Pina wrote on November 8. “The spacing in L.A. isn’t ideal, and James doesn’t have the same first step, the one that used to carry him where he wanted to go regardless of how wide his driving lane was. He’s averaging his fewest drives per game since Second Spectrum started tracking those numbers back in 2014, and out of 106 players who’ve driven the ball at least 50 times this season, LeBron ranks 90th in points generated per direct drive (at a paltry 0.89 points per possession).
“Related: LeBron’s free throw rate is also the lowest it’s ever been. There are 29 players logging more attempts per game. Let’s name a few: Saddiq Bey, Kevin Porter Jr., and Alperen Sengun. Getting to the line is a firewall for any great player, but especially when their outside shot looks broken. Of the 42 players who’ve attempted at least 150 field goals this season, LeBron ranks second in quantified shot probability (qSP) and last in quantified shot-making (qSM), which essentially means he should be making way more shots than he is. The silver lining: LeBron won’t finish the season at 22 percent from behind the arc—nobody ever has at that volume—or with a lower effective field goal percentage in line with (Russell) Westbrook’s.”
The Lakers’ next game is on November 9 against the Los Angeles Clippers. It’s unknown if James will suit up.
LeBron Can’t Be Traded Until Next Summer
James can’t be traded until February 18, 2023, which is after this year’s trade deadline. The Chosen One signed a two-year, $97.1 million extension with the Lakers that includes a player option for the 2024-25 season.
A trade could benefit both the Lakers and James. Los Angeles would get valuable assets in return for James and LeBron would escape the dysfunction that’s going on in LA under Rob Pelinka’s leadership. The earliest James can be traded is in the summer of 2023.
James is two championships and two Finals MVPs away from tying his childhood idol, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan. It doesn’t appear LeBron is going to win a second ring with the Lakers with the way things are going right now. If the King is serious about catching Jordan, he should request a trade next offseason.