LeBron James gutted it out and got on the court for the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of last season, although he was far from 100%.
While speaking to the media on the eve of the Lakers’ season-opener, James opened up for the first time about the ankle injury he suffered last season that forced him to miss a career-high 26 games. The lingering effects from the injury stretched well into the offseason.
“It took a while,” James told reporters on Monday, October 18. “I didn’t do much basketball stuff for probably the first two months of the summer, which is very rare for me, because my ankle wasn’t responding how I would like it to respond.
“And the best thing about the summertime was I had time. I had time to just really get ready when my ankle was ready to go. I was always training, just wasn’t on the basketball court much. Always doing other stuff, training, pushing, seeing if I could do other stuff with my ankle, and until I got to a point where I didn’t feel any sharp pains anymore, and my flexibility was back to where it was before. That’s when I knew I could get back on the floor.”
James Not Worried About Minute Management
The injury to James’ ankle had nothing to do with James’ age. It was simply a freak accident when Hawks forward Solomon Hill slid into the leg. Before going down, James was on pace to win the MVP.
James is not entering this year with a fearful mindset. He wants to play all the minutes he can and, in fact, feels better when he’s logging big numbers.
“I don’t play the game thinking about injuries,” James told reporters. “And I also feel worse when I play low minutes.”
James played a career-low 33.4 minutes per game last year, which came after a historically short offseason due to the Lakers winning the title in the bubble and the COVID-19 pandemic. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said he’ll play it by ear but the goal is to keep James in the 34-36 minute range.
“We will be intelligent,” Vogel said. “Obviously you probably don’t want to have him play 82 games, but we’re not going to pre-script X amount of nights off. We’ll take it as it comes throughout the year.
“In some ways, if he stays over there too long and gets cold, it’s worse for him than to get back in there. Especially because he’s been playing this type of rotation for so long.”
James Not Lingering On Last Season’s Failure
It’s no secret that things did not go as planned for the Lakers, who were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Suns after assembling a roster that was thought to be a significant upgrade over the one they won a title with. But the chemistry never developed for the Lakers and injuries to James and Anthony Davis derailed their repeat campaign.
The Lakers now have nearly an entirely new roster, with Russell Westbrook joining Davis and James to form a big three.
“Just motivated to have an opportunity to win a championship,” James said. “That’s why I play the game. It’s one of the greatest, shortest feelings that you have. You win a championship and everything that you put into that year, it just hits you all at once. And literally, a couple of hours later, it’s like, ‘It’s over.’
“And the whole time, you’re just trying to figure out how to get that moment again. Seriously. That’s part of motivation still, just always trying to get that feeling.”
The Lakers are +400 to win it all, behind only the Brooklyn Nets, per Vegas Insider.