LeBron’s Return To The Court Is Getting Closer | What Does This Mean For The Lakers’ Title Hopes?

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ESPN is reporting that LeBron James, who has been sidelined for two weeks with an abdominal strain, could be making his way back by Friday Nov. 19. Just in time for a road game against the Boston Celtics.

The return of the four-time MVP can’t come fast enough for the struggling Los Angeles Lakers. They are 8-7, number seven in the Western Conference, and are in the bottom third of the NBA in adjusted net rating.

The off-season moves, save for some decent turn-back-the-clock moments from Carmelo Anthony, have not worked out so far.

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But the prevailing thought among many is, once LeBron returns everything will be fine. But will it?

LeBron is 36 years old and has played over 50,000 minutes in his career. That’s a lot of miles on his body. Aside from his first two years in the league and his first season in LA, he’s made deep playoff runs. All of that has taxed his finely tuned body.

A body that is increasingly breaking down.

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Since he joined the Lakers in 2018-19 he has missed a part of every season with an injury. The best predictor of future injury is previous injury. They’re starting to add up for LeBron.

Still, when he’s right he’s sublime on a basketball court. If he’s able to play out the rest of this season and win a title, a big if, that would be a tremendous feat. Perhaps legacy defining.

For what it’s worth, ESPN talking head Stephen A. Smith doesn’t think LeBron will ever win another title.

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A fifth title would move LeBron to within one of Michael Jordan. The GOAT standard for most of #NBATwitter.

LeBron famously said he was “chasing ghosts” in reference to becoming the GOAT. He knows his 4-6 NBA Finals record, while impressive, doesn’t compare in the court of NBA public opinion to Jordan’s 6-0. Despite the fact that LeBron has made the Finals four more times than Jordan.

The chase is what led LeBron to LA to team up with superstar Anthony Davis. The thought being the younger 28-year-old Davis would extend LeBron’s prime and championship window.

So far, the jury is still out on that.

Davis was brilliant in the 2020 NBA playoffs and finals. But the consistency hasn’t been there. Despite his youth, Davis has only played in more than 70 games twice in his 10 NBA seasons.

The injury bug has plagued the young big man throughout this career. TNT’s Charles Barkley refers to Davis as “street clothes” due to his propensity to miss games due to injury.

The Lakers’ 8-7 record isn’t necessarily an indictment on Davis, but it does suggest that he has been unable to lead the team in LeBron’s absence. Which in and of itself is a double-edged sword.

No LeBron James-led team is constructed to perform well without him. His unique gifts fill all the missing holes. Still, Davis should have them with a better record.

For the Lakers to re-establish themselves as title contenders, they will first need a healthy LeBron. Then Davis will have to consistently play like the two-way monster he is capable of showing.

Finally, their mix of veterans and youth will have to be enough to round out their championship stew.

We’re only 15 games in. But come Christmas Day, if the Lakers haven’t shown positive trending signs, it may well be over.