LeBron James was succinct in his assessment of the Lakers’ loss to the Heat yesterday. He noted that turnovers caused the blowout setback, and, given the numbers, it’s hard for even the most optimistic fans to argue otherwise. After all, the purple and gold committed 19 more than their opponents’ five. The yawning gap led them to absorb a 29-point deficit in points scored off miscues. That they shot marginally better from the field made no difference, especially since they also happened to have 15 less stabs at the basket.
To be sure, James did little to help the Lakers protect the hall better. In fact, he finished the match with the highest number of turnovers, one more than the Heat’s combined aggregate. Perhaps they were affected by fatigue on the second night of a back-to-back set. Perhaps they simply reflected their poor record away from crypto.com Arena.
Bottom line, they were overmatched for much of the contest; they relinquished the lead three minutes and change into the first quarter, and went downhill from then on. They may have whittled the deficit down to seven points with four minutes left in the payoff period, but it proved to be too little, too late. Two bad passes and a miss later, and the outcome was evident.
No doubt, James didn’t want to spend his last time he set foot on the court as a 37-year-old the way he did. Given his prolonged exposure in recent memory, the 34 minutes he spent burning rubber was limited by comparison. That said, he made no secret of his desire to keep playing under better terms. “I want to still be able to compete for championships because I know what I can still bring to any ballclub with the right pieces.” For those who love to parse his statements, the operative phrase is “any ballclub.” Even at this stage, even when he’s close to becoming the National Basketball Association’s all-time leading scorer, he’s still bent on adding to his haul of rings.
Lest James be accused of chasing the hardware, however, it bears noting that he’s no longer upwardly mobile as he used to be. For better or worse, he’s stuck with the Lakers — in terms of his contract, in terms of his age, in terms of his family. And barring a sudden turn of events, 2023 will pretty much be the same as 2022 for him: closer to the bottom than the top. But, hey, he can’t complain. At this juncture, it’s his lot in life; it may no longer be a lot, but it’s life. In any case, his place in history is secure; whether or not he exits the sport’s grandest stage with a bang, he will have an immeasurable influence lasting well beyond his years.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.