The Los Angeles Lakers fell disappointingly short of repeating as NBA champions. The loss sends star forward LeBron James into the offseason much sooner than he expected. Before James embarks into the summer, he sent a strong message to the rest of the league.
LeBron James and the Lakers fall short of NBA title contention
The Lakers entered the 2020-21 season eyeing a second straight NBA title.
However, the revamped roster behind James and Anthony Davis struggled to step up, especially after both stars suffering serious injuries. Each managed to return late in the regular season but couldn’t move beyond the ailments.
James suffered a pair of setbacks from his ankle injury, while Davis experienced a strained groin that doomed the Lakers’ chance of contending for an NBA title. As Los Angeles heads into the offseason, the four-time league MVP sent a stern message to the rest of the league.
LeBron James delivers vividly strong message to the rest of the NBA
The Lakers‘ unceremoniously bowed out the playoffs after a first-round exit.
The loss puts James in unfamiliar territory as it marks the first time in his career that he failed to make it past the first round. Before the 36-year-old embarks into an extended summer, he sent a strong message via social media, airing his desire to get revenge next season by using a scene from the movie The Gladiator.
“PROMISE YOU I WILL Count me out if you want!,” James wrote.
James likely already hears the noise that is doubting his ability ahead of his 19th campaign. The four-time league MVP is in uncharted territory, continuing to play at an elite level this late into his illustrious career.
He holds the motivation to push forward to showcase that he can return to the player he was before suffering the high ankle sprain. The 17-time All-Star was among the frontrunner for the MVP award before the injury occurred.
James will have the internal drive to make another concerted push to make an MVP bid to prove that he’s playing at the top of his game and make NBA history. After the Game 6 loss to the Suns, he voiced that he isn’t motivated by anything other than his family, but he will have much to draw from to guide him forward.
Lakers have many critical offseason decisions ahead
Beyond James returning to full health and playing like an MVP candidate, the Lakers hold many critical roster decisions ahead.
The bulk of the team will enter free agency with many key players hitting the open market, such as Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Markieff Morris. Montrezl Harrell also holds a $9.7 million player option for the 2021-22 campaign that may see him choose to decline it and play elsewhere.
Marc Gasol has also voiced uncertainty concerning his future despite his deal running through next season. Meanwhile, Kyle Kuzma may see his name crop up in trade rumors less than a year after inking a three-year, $39 million extension.
The front office is motivated to put together a roster that can compete for another NBA title with James and Davis leading the charge. General manager Rob Pelinka wants to maximize the window with the two stars together as the four-time league MVP is under contract at least through the next two seasons.
Ultimately, The pressure is on the front office to build a more consistent supporting cast that can elevate the franchise toward NBA title contention.