The LeBron James slander is in full force after the Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.
James’ body language was off all game, and it’s tough to blame him. The Lakers were down 29 points in the first half. While a second-half run narrowed that deficit to as little at 10 in the fourth quarter, the Suns proved far too competent in the closing minutes thanks to outstanding effort from Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
James played 41 minutes, and that time on the floor started to take its toll late in the game. The 36-year-old asked to come out of the game midway through the fourth and walked back on defense on several occasions. It’s the type of behavior we’re used to seeing LeBron criticize his own teammates for.
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James shot 11-of-26 from the field, and wasn’t nearly his usual efficient self. While James did get help from his teammates, including 20 points from Dennis Schroder and 19 from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Los Angeles looked visibly defeated when Anthony Davis went out with an injury.
Davis re-aggravated his groin injury that he arguably should’ve never played on. That, combined with a horrific series of events from the Lakers perspective and a downright unconscious shooting night from Booker, is why James is heading home. It’s the only first-round exit of his career.
The offseason bring serious questions for the Lakers, who must now continue to build around a core of James and Davis. Perhaps a full summer — not one filled with an NBA Finals run — will allow LeBron the rest necessary to prepare for a successful campaign in the back stretch of his career.