Mon. Jan 21st, 2019

Lakers offered major NBA playoffs hope despite LeBron James injury: ‘I think he knows it’

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That’s according to Fox Sports’ Jason McIntyre.

Since LeBron went down injured on Christmas Day, the Lakers have slipped down the standings in the West after a 3-6 run.

It is not yet known when the four-time MVP will return from his groin strain, though ESPN suggest LeBron would rather take his time to fully recover than be forced back.

Yet having played over half of the 2018-19 NBA season, the Lakers’ post-season return is far from guaranteed dependent on how long LeBron’s lay-off is.

The 34-year-old has reached the last eight successive NBA Finals and widely viewed as the best player in the league, his talents are expected to be enough to take the Lakers back into the playoffs after a five-year absence.

LeBron has no All-Star support at Staples Center as it stands and the lack of elite-level talent around their centre-piece has seen major doubt cast over LA’s championship chances this year.

But McIntyre thinks that LeBron can lift Luke Walton’s Lakers and their young core to the Conference Finals – even though they haven’t been that deep into the playoffs since 2010 when they beat the Boston Celtics to win a 16th championship.

That’s after the three-time champion led a poor Cleveland Cavaliers roster to the NBA Finals last year, albeit in the weaker division of the East. 

And McIntyre believes LeBron is full of confidence in his abilities to lead the Lakers to the Finals of the West, even though very few of his team-mates have experience of the post-season.

He told Scoop B Radio with Brandon Robinson: “If there’s any injury to [Steph] Curry or [Kevin] Durant, then the Lakers have a shot of beating them [the Golden State Warriors]. 

“The Thunder have a small shot, the Rockets have a small shot. But that’s with injuries – assuming everybody stays healthy? No I don’t think anybody from the West [beats them]. 

“I think as long as the Lakers get the second or third seed, they’ll be in the Western Conference Finals. 

“Actually as long as they don’t play the Warriors until the Conference Finals, I think LeBron will get them there and I think LeBron knows it. 

“Last year, no Kyrie Irving. Last year’s roster was a joke – beats the Pacers in seven, beats the Celtics in seven. 

“It’s LeBron. I’m sorry, I’m not betting against him.”

LeBron has not missed out on the NBA playoffs since his first spell with the Cavs and just his second year in the league, in 2004-05. Since then, he has reached at least the Conference semi-finals in 13 consecutive seasons.

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