LOS ANGELES – LeBron James remains a “championship pillar” for the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA club will do everything it can to ensure he and Anthony Davis are in full force next season, the general manager said Friday. Rob Pelinka.
The Phoenix Suns ended the Lakers’ NBA title defense emphatically Thursday, leading wire to wire in a 113-100 victory to win their Western Conference first-round series best-of-seven in six games. .
It was the first time in 15 playoff appearances that James, a four-time NBA champion, was eliminated in the first round.
Inevitably, the series’ loss, on the heels of a regular season in which James and Davis battled injuries and the Lakers had to fight their way into the postseason proper as the seventh seed, sparked speculation about how long he would last 36 years – the Old James will be the man to run a franchise and if he can still hope to match the legendary Michael Jordan’s six titles.
Pelinka, however, insisted that James and Davis together, if healthy, can bring the Lakers back to the top.
“Anthony Davis and LeBron James are championship pillars for this franchise for years to come,” Pelinka said.
“I see the role of any organization, front office, training staff, is to be a support role and we have to put all that we can in terms of resources to help LeBron get over the end of his sprained ankle and then Anthony. Davis, of course, the injuries he faced, ”Pelinka said.
“We know those guys are two of the best two-way players in the world.”
Davis limped less than six minutes scoreless in Game 6 against Phoenix before a groin injury sustained in Game 4 forced him to follow the guidelines.
James scored 29 points, but was helpless against an early attack from Suns rising star Devin Booker, who scored 22 of his 47 points in the first quarter.
It was the end of an 18-month career that James called “mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally exhausting.”
The Lakers had only a couple of months after they clinched the club’s 17th championship in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Florida before the new season began.
Despite the rapid turnaround, the Lakers were 21-6 at the start of the season before injuries left them in disarray.
‘I motivate myself’
Davis missed nearly two months with a calf strain. James sprained his right ankle in March and missed 26 regular-season games.
He said after Thursday’s game that he was looking forward to a full offseason, one that he indicated would not include the Tokyo Olympics.
“It’s going to do wonders for me,” he said. “I can have three months to recalibrate, get my ankle back to 100%. Everything else feels extremely good. “
And once you’ve rested, James added, you won’t need to check out the continuing exploits of the “young players” in the league like Booker, Donovan Mitchell, Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum and Luka Doncic to motivate yourself.
“I don’t need the motivation of anyone in this league,” he said. “I motivate myself”.
That’s what Pelinka wants to hear as he ponders how to modify the Lakers roster to complement James and Davis and put the Lakers back on top.
“That has to be the goal every year,” Pelinka said. “We have an insatiable desire and passion to bring the No. 18 banner here.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS To access The Philippine Daily Inquirer and more than 70 other titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download from 4am and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.
For comments, complaints or inquiries, Contact Us.