His month-long absence due to a groin injury probably didn’t help. Neither did his open courting of Anthony Davis.
Bill Oram of The Athletic:
James was not really around. His injury did not allow him to travel, and he would arrive at home games moments before tip-off. Once with a glass of red wine in hand.
This was when, according to some in the locker room, players started to look at James a bit differently.
A schism developed in the locker room. Sources around the team said it was apparent that the young players no longer trusted James, believing he was operating behind the scenes to get them traded to New Orleans.
LeBron’s injury made it harder to connect with his teammates. It was expected and understandable he’d spend less time with them while focusing on recovery.
But he really flaunted his separation with things like the glass of wine.
LeBron should have realized the inevitable disconnect and worked harder to overcome it. He could have arrived to games earlier and been more engaged on the bench.
Leading would have come easier if he were healthy, but the injury doesn’t let LeBron off the hook. As the Lakers’ clear top player, he held a natural leadership role, even while injured. He should have put forth more effort in that regard while sidelined.
By contrast, Rajon Rondo – even while injured – worked hard to bond with younger teammates, as Oram details. His story is a fascinating look into the Lakers’ problems, and I suggest reading it in full.