The defending champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, struggled with injuries all season and injuries ultimately ended their season six games into the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
With 6:35 minutes left in the first quarter, Lakers forward Anthony Davis fell on the floor and sat for an extended period of time, forward Kyle Kuzma eventually entered the game in his stead. Davis had reaggravated his groin injury, the forward was also playing through a knee injury that he sustained in game three.
“What happened in game three was just a freak accident, hyperextension of the knee,” Davis said. “I played through that for the rest of the game and then come game four a play that happened with the groin … I was just going to try and play through it and do what you can.”
Davis also noted that forward LeBron James was not completely healthy either but led the squad with 29 points in the matchup.
“He left it all on the floor, especially tonight trying to make play after play to help us get to a game seven,” Davis said.
Lakers players noted how not having a full offseason attributed not only to their injuries, but the injuries of players throughout the NBA. The Lakers won the 2020 NBA Championship on October 11. Exactly two months later, they were playing their first preseason game against the L.A. Clippers.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel mentioned how the front office worked to manage the injuries to find a balance of keeping players and building them up properly.
“I think the whole thing was a challenge in order to play all the way until October and then to start the season as quickly as we did, it’s just gonna be an uphill battle,” Vogel said. “We tried to grind through it and get our legs under us, get conditioned the right way.”
Competing in the NBA Bubble along with the condensed 2021 season has been spiritually, emotionally and physically exhausting, according to James.
“Throughout, it’s been mentally draining,” James said. “Every team has to deal with it, but with us and Miami (Heat) going the long haul in the Bubble and then coming right back on a short notice to this season has been very draining.”
The Lakers, along with the Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat reached their respective conference championships last season. Three of the four teams were knocked out of the 2021 Playoffs in the first round. The Denver Nuggets must go into the second round without star guard Jamal Murray who is sidelined with a torn ACL.
Lakers players are ready to heal and are excited to bring a competitive campaign for the 2021-2022 season. Guard Dennis Schröder talked about all that he learned playing alongside James and the Lakers squad.
“Everybody in the locker room is great,” he said. “At the end of the day, I want to be here and win a championship.”