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The View From Pluto: Did LeBron Make His Biggest Mistake in Joining the Lakers?

LeBron James may miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-2005 season with the Cavaliers.
LeBron James may miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-2005 season with the Cavaliers.

After eight straight trips to the NBA Finals, including four with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James and his new team the Los Angeles Lakers are likely to miss the playoffs entirely. WKSU’s sports commentator Terry Pluto thinks after being sidelined with an injury for part of the year, LeBron and the Lakers have looked like a complete disaster.

For LeBron James this losing season is an aberration

James has made the NBA playoffs each year since his sophomore campaign with the Cavs in '04-'05. His teams have never been beaten in the first round, but Pluto thinks James' Lakers would need a miracle to even get that far. 

Pluto chalks the Lakers 30-34 record to a number of factors, like James' lingering groin injury and the failed blockbuster deal to acquire the league's best center in Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans. 

"(That failed trade) messed up two franchises. Because now Anthony Davis really almost alienated himself from his team. They don't know what to do with him," Pluto said.

"Meanwhile, the Lakers, all those guys whose names were floated publicly, they're like 'LeBron wants to get rid of me.' So this has just been awful."

But the biggest reason the Lakers are headed for the couch and not the playoffs? The team's roster. 

The days of lobs from a streaking Dwyane Wade in Miami are long gone. There's no late game heroics from an acrobatic Kyrie Irving, either.

"Instead of all stars (in L.A.) it was like these guys you would find at a basketball rummage sale," Pluto said. 

Who does James have now? An older Rajon Rondo? A few young guys still trying to figure things out in Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and the injured Lonzo Ball? 

"That's it? You went from Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love or you went from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to JaVale McGee?!"

The team lacks another James team staple: the 3-point specialist, something Pluto said LeBron has thrived with since his days playing for Akron's St. Vincent-St. Mary in high school

There's no Ray Allen or Kyle Korver waiting in the corner to knock down a triple, instead there's apathy and uncomfortable postgame interviews about why this LeBron James-led team isn't measuring up. 

"Nothing about this is typical for LeBron," Pluto said.  

Was the move to L.A. from his home in Northeast Ohio a total disaster? Pluto thinks only time will tell. The Lakers could add marquee free agents in the off season or LeBron's dissatisfaction could bring a new head coach to roam the sidelines at the Staples Center.

But one thing is for sure: at 34, LeBron James isn't getting any younger. 

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

Mark has been a host, reporter and producer at several NPR member stations in Delaware, Alaska, Washington and Kansas. His reporting has taken him everywhere from remote islands in the Bering Sea to the tops of skyscrapers overlooking Puget Sound. He is a diehard college basketball fan who enjoys taking walks with his dog, Otis.