After a tumultuous, injury-plagued regular season, something once considered almost unthinkable happened on Thursday night: the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. With Anthony Davis unable to play more than a few minutes due to a groin injury that has plagued him for most of the series, the Lakers were decimated by Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and the Phoenix Suns.
Both LeBron and AD were out for large chunks of the season. LeBron was playing at an MVP level for much of the year when he was healthy, but with the entire onus put on him in the playoffs with Davis out, he didn't respond the same way that he has in similar situations in years past. After averaging 25/7.7/7.8 on 51.3/36.5/69.8 in the regular season, his numbers dipped in six games against the Suns. He was at 23.3 points, eight assists, and 7.2 rebounds, shooting 47.4/37.5/60.9.
Free throws aside, those are good numbers for just about any player in league history. For LeBron James, they're fairly pedestrian, especially when he didn't have a second option. We've seen him put up Herculean efforts in those situations, even when his teams were overmatched, and we didn't get that against the Suns. One of LeBron's former Cleveland Cavaliers teammates, Channing Frye, thinks that in order to preserve his legacy, he should step away now.
“If LeBron is averaging less than 25 points a game, which he's been averaging, I think he should retire," Frye. "That's a crazy thing for me to say, but if he leaves the game averaging 25 points per game... And I'm going to add another level to this: Who are the Lakers bringing in that can put him over the top? Have you seen the free agents? There's nobody.
"Rob Pelinka is the man, and has done a good job with what he can work with... He ain't Siegfried and Roy. He ain't bringing in the tiger. There's nobody. It's hard to rely on AD. AD's one of the most unstoppable guys in the NBA at his position. Is he going to play 30 games? Is he going to play in the playoffs?" Even if LeBron is still playing at a high level, if he is only able to average in the low-to-mid 20s, he won't have the supplemental help with injury-ridden Anthony Davis to make another championship run, and he's better off not adding on more late years to his resume. "For me, don't stay long enough to be the villain, and ruin all the work he's done for 18 years," Frye continued. "Hey, this year we tried, we're makeshifting teams. Who's coming back that you would want back? Nobody. So you have to start over again?" This isn't expected to be a big year in free agency, but we've seen other methods in which the Lakers can acquire players. There's already some buzz that Damian Lillard could, at long last, want out of Portland after the Blazers' series loss last night. Other stars may rattle sabers to get out of their situations if the chance to play with LeBron James presents itself. And if the Lakers can add another star, there may be no player who is more likely to age gracefully and remain a valuable player with a lesser scoring load than LeBron. Frye may have a point, but it seems extremely unlikely that he steps away now, especially after what was something of a freak season. [
“If LeBron is averaging less than 25 points a game, I think he should retire... Who are the Lakers bringing in that can put him over the top?”
-@channingfrye talks LeBron's future with @KingJosiah54 & @TaylorRooks on #NBATwitterLivepic.twitter.com/j5gudgrBfk
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) June 4, 2021
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