Injuries not only factored in the Los Angeles Lakers’ failure to qualify for the playoffs in 2021-22 but also stopped LeBron James from winning his second scoring title.
The 37-year-old was on course to add the accolade to his vast resume this season, leading Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid with 30.3 points per game at the beginning of April.
However, the ankle injury he suffered in the loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on March 27 allowed him to play in just one more game until the end of the regular season. James finished the campaign with 56 games played in 2021-22, two short of the qualifying minimum.
Also, Embiid leapfrogged the four-time NBA champion on the scoring list down the wire, ending up with 30.6 points per game.
Despite the injury, many expected James to fight for the scoring title even after the Lakers got eliminated from Play-In Tournament contention. But the Lakers All-Star said it would be beneath him to risk his health for the sake of claiming the individual achievement.
“Once we were eliminated from playoff contention then it was nothing to talk about or think about,” James said. “I’m not going to be out there playing meaningless games just to win the scoring title.
“That’s so beneath me and where I am in my career. If I would have played enough games to qualify period in the beginning then that would have taken care of itself, but once we were eliminated from contention and knowing my ankle situation, me going out there and playing in games that don’t mean anything for myself personally or for this franchise, I mean, I won’t take nothing away from the guys that went out and did what they did winning these last two games.
“I thought the younger guys, they played great basketball. But for me, I’m 19 years in and going after a scoring title when you’re not making the postseason is the most wackiest thing ever.”
James has won the scoring title only once in his career, averaging 30.0 points to beat Kobe Bryant to the honor in 2008.
James wants to figure out how to get more free throw attempts
Despite having a chance to get some extra rest this offseason, James has already started planning for 2022-23. The forward said that individually, his goal will be to figure out how to get to the free-throw line more often.
“I want to figure out how to trick the refs. I want to figure it out. I need to figure it out,” James said.
“I see too many stats about points in the paint and things of that nature and I’m up there in the top leaderboard. Field goals in the restricted area and things of that nature. I’m like in the bottom tier of free throws per game. Got to figure it out.”
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