Way Out West- Happy Festivus Edition 12.26.18

The King is Dinged

LeBron James appears, quite frequently, to be super human. In some ways, he is. His body type gives him any number of advantages on the court, and it’s a primary reason that he’s been to the Finals every year since the end of World War II. OK, maybe not that long, but it’s been a minute since he’s been watching the finals from home. But his apparent Superman skill set isn’t what we’re talking about here. More impressive to me than the leveraging of a superior physique, is his ability to play more minutes, year after year, without sustaining any significant injuries. It’s beyond what most human physiology could handle. He’s posted an average usage rate of 30% since his second season. That’s an exhausting amount of offensive touches for a player who is also a top caliber defender. And he’s already 17 th (and counting) on the NBA’s all-time minutes list. Sure, he’s had his share of nicks and bruises, but he’s seldom been sidelined for any meaningful amount of time. All that came crashing down with a simple slip on Christmas Day at Oracle Arena. A relatively mild groin strain was diagnosed by MRI the following day. Which is good news, given the possibilities, but the injury is expected to sideline the king for a few games at least, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. LeBron will need to be patient and let that groin heal fully if he wants to help the Lakers make an impact in the post season. It’s exactly the sort of injury that can slow a player down long-term if it isn’t addressed.

What about the Champs?

All of that might be more concerning if the Lakers didn’t handle the defending champs with ease in the much-anticipated Christmas showdown. The 127-101 rout was a bit surprising, especially given LeBron’s injury. It seems that the Western Conference might be catching up with the death lineup. For the first time in a few years, Golden State hasn’t been able to flip the switch and walk down teams in the third quarter, a feat that should have been easy with the Lakers best player in back in the locker room. It’s not the first time that Golden State has struggle to light it up. Warriors coach Steve Kerr has taken note of the defensive themes noting that “Basically everyone is playing us the same way.” It’s an admission that the Warriors can’t just walk over teams as they have in the past few years, but it’s also an intriguing glimpse into his thoughts on the matter. Translation: “we know what defense you’re going to run.” It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing. When you know what the defense is going to go, the advantage swings back in the other direction. The Warriors revolutionized the game a few years ago with a pass-happy offense and sharpshooters around the perimeter that are now the blueprint for most of the game’s best franchises, the Lakers, Rockets, Celtics and Raptors among them. It should be interesting to see what Kerr and company come up with as the season wears on to stay ahead of their competition.

Image Source: USA Today

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