Lance Stephenson was driven to tears the Lakers were eliminated from the postseason.
The 28-year-old guard told The Athletic in a recent interview he went home and cried following Los Angeles’ loss to the Nets on March 22, which officially ended the team’s playoff hopes.
“My goal in the NBA was to make it to the finals,” Stephenson told The Athletic. “I was close with the Pacers. You don’t have that many chances of getting there. I felt like this was the one right here.”
Stephenson inked a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Lakers in the offseason. He said a major reason he chose to sign with the team was for the opportunity to play with star LeBron James.
James’ streak of eight consecutive finals appearances will be snapped this season. He last missed the playoffs in 2004-05.
“He makes it to the playoffs every year,” Stephenson said. “He makes it to the finals. So, I mean my goal was, ‘Oh yeah, I definitely want to be a part of that.’ Help him out and just fight with him.”
Veteran center JaVale McGee also joined the Lakers last summer after spending the last two seasons with the Warriors. He’s averaging 11.8 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 62.3 percent from the field in 2018-19.
“I wanted to make the playoffs again but with a bigger role,” McGee told The Athletic. “We didn’t make the playoffs unfortunately, but I had a bigger role, so I don’t take it as something lost or anything.”
Los Angeles began the season with a 20-14 record before James suffered a strained groin Dec. 25. He missed the next 17 games and the team never recovered.
The Lakers also dealt with injuries from key role players throughout 2018-19 and they recently shut down James for the rest of the season.
“The injuries we’ve had this year. … That’s crazy,” McGee said. “It’s nothing I’ve seen to where how many people are getting injured. Which forces us to play different lineups and play totally different every other month.”
The Lakers will enter their matchup Tuesday against the Thunder with a 35-42 record. They have five regular-season games remaining.