Following their lopsided 127-101 win over the Golden State Warriors at the Oracle Arena, the Los Angeles Lakers are still at fourth place in the Western Conference with a 20-14 record. They are a mere two games ahead of the ninth-place San Antonio Spurs, however. That game saw the Lakers’ four-time MVP forward, LeBron James, go down with a strained groin — and most indications point to James only missing a few games due to the injury. However, a team staffer suggested that the effect of LeBron sitting out at least 10 games could hurt the Lakers to the point that they might end up missing the playoffs.
In a report for the Athletic which was published Wednesday, writer Bill Oram talked about how the Lakers’ goal of making the playoffs for the first time in six years might have gotten “much trickier” in the aftermath of James’ injury. While the aforementioned story can only be accessed in full by paid members, Silver Screen and Roll quoted a passage from the report that cited an unnamed Lakers employee. Said employee apparently believes that the team’s momentum could be shot if James is unavailable, even for a slightly extended period of time.
“Earlier this season, one team staffer suggested in a conversation with The Athletic that it might take nothing more than James missing 10 games with an injury to knock the Lakers out of the playoff picture. The margins in the West are that tight, and the Lakers need LeBron that much.”
The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, but lost LeBron James — at least for the time being https://t.co/mFrseAtyz7
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 26, 2018
Analyzing the impact LeBron James has had on the Los Angeles Lakers since he joined the team this summer, Silver Screen and Roll pointed out that James, who turns 34 on Sunday, has been on court for about 72 percent of the minutes the Lakers have played this season. He has helped the team score 5.1 more points per 100 possessions when he’s playing, as opposed to when he’s on the bench.
With the exception of backup forward Travis Wear — who was assigned to the team’s South Bay Lakers G-League affiliate in November, per the NBA — James is also the only Laker who has given the team a negative net rating while he’s sitting, Silver Screen and Roll added.
“What that essentially means is that the Lakers are still outscoring their opponents during minutes when anyone on their roster sits, other than James, which really emphasizes how big of a driver James is on the Lakers’ fortunes.”
Currently, LeBron James is averaging a team-leading 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 7.1 assists in 34 games, per Basketball-Reference. According to USA Today, James underwent an MRI on Wednesday that revealed no significant damage, and might have to miss more than one game “for precautionary reasons.”
In the meantime, he is listed as day-to-day with a strained left groin.