By Earl Heath, Contributing Sports Writer
As tough as it may sound there will be no repeat or no NBA finals this year for one of the most storied franchise’s in sports. They played the first home playoff game at Staples for the first time in seven years. All the games were in the “Bubble” last season.
The Los Angeles Lakers fell to the Phoenix Suns 4-2 in the first round. This after having to win a play-in game against Golden State. It seems without a healthy AD they could not overcome a young hot Suns team with Devin Booker having a pair of 40-point games.
It was the first time a LeBron team was eliminated in the first round.
“The Phoenix Suns had the second-best record in the NBA for a reason,” said Laker Coach Frank Vogel. “If were whole this match-up would probably happen in the Conference finals.”
This is a team that won a title then went right back to work some 70 days later.
They were a part of the league’s rash of injuries and fight against COVID protocol. Players were told to wear mask when on the bench and testing was done daily. On the road they were confined to team hotels. Alex Caruso and Dennis Schroder missed several games after being put into protocol during the season.
There could be excuses made, like Anthony Davis was out so many games then LeBron was out, then they both were out at the same time. When they returned they played 10 games together and held a 2-1 series lead.
“The one thing that bothers me more than anything is that we never really got to see our full team at full strength,” said James.
At one point the Lakers were 21-6 then AD missed a couple of games due to a sore Achilles, when he took off for a two-week absence that turned into two-months away from the game. Shortly afterwards Atlanta’s Solomon Hill landed on James ankle chasing a loose ball at Staples.
They went out and got Andrew Drummond the All-Star was a plus to the team becoming a starter helping fill the void in the absent Davis. He finished the season averaging 10 rebound and 12 points a game.
“Dre was great for us, let me start by saying that,” said Vogel. “Were hopeful that he’s a Laker for a long time. He played well for us and was a good culture fit. He fit well with the guys and was well liked. We were concerned about the time it would be to build the cohesion necessary and AD being out and Bron getting only two games with him before the playoffs began. We just didn’t have that time to build the cohesiveness that we wanted.”
There is a whole off season to fix things and get the team back on track to a title.
Laker great Magic Johnson had some advice for AD during the offseason. “I think he should hire a health therapist and nutritionist that can help find ways to stay healthy when prevention,” said Johnson. “Kareem played into his forties. He was doing yoga before it became really popular. He was ahead of the game.”