Trouble in Tinsel-town: Will LeBron-led Lakers land a Playoff Spot?
As the NBA All Star Break approaches its conclusion after a memorable weekend in Charlotte, teams throughout the Association begin to prepare themselves for the final 25 games of the regular season. One team in particular that must make drastic and urgent modifications with the looming playoffs just a couple months away is the Los Angeles Lakers. With an unimpressive record of 29-31, the Lakers currently stand 11th in the highly competitive Western Conference. They are 3 games back of their arena sharing, Los Angeles Clippers who currently hold the 8th spot in the West. The Sacramento Kings are the other California team that is competing with the Lakers to land themselves a slot in the playoffs as they hold the 9th seed. Going into the All Star Break, the Lakers lost back-to-back games including a disappointing performance against the struggling Atlanta Hawks. Inconsistency has been plaguing the Lakers for the majority of the season due to an assortment of injuries from many of their big-time players.
Flashback to Christmas Day, optimism in La La Land was running high when the Lakers were sitting on the 4th spot in the Western Conference even after a shaky start to the season. LeBron James was playing at his expected sensational level, proving that he had a strong case to be still considered the best player in the world. The young Lakers team stormed into Oakland to battle the back-to-back champion Golden State Warriors and were holding their own. All of a sudden, LeBron goes down on the hardwood and has a difficult time in getting up. He clearly was in a lot of pain based on his facial expression as he winced in pain while he required assistance to be escorted off the floor. By this point in the game, the Lakers had the game in the bag, but everyone watching and playing for Los Angeles had their concerns about the status of their recently signed superstar. After going through MRI scans, it turned out to be a groin strain injury for LeBron which is the exact same injury that had Stephen Curry had him miss significant time last season for Golden State. LeBron was thankful that it was not as serious as he thought it would, nonetheless, he still went on to miss 17 games.
During the time span of LeBron’s longest time out from an injury in his entire career, the Lakers were beginning to look similar to the Cleveland Cavaliers of years past when the King was not on the court meaning flat out bad. They posted a disappointing 5-12 record in LeBron’s absence including bad loses to the Cavaliers and Knicks at home. Lack of maturity and discipline seemed to be contributing factors as to why the Lakers were playing so badly without LeBron. Trade rumors have been plaguing the Laker’s psyche for the majority of the season so far as the constant media coverage surrounding this team has caused undeniable tension within their locker room. Since superstar Pelicans forward Anthony Davis let it be known that he wants out of New Orleans, Magic Johnson and the Lakers had done everything in their power to woo him into being part of a blockbuster trade before the NBA Trade Deadline. They were willing to trade the majority of their young talent including the likes of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and countless draft picks all in exchange for “AD.” The nonstop media attention discussing trade rumors regarding the Laker's young core resulted in the players not playing in unison and team chemistry becoming not apparent anymore. The effort on both sides of the floor was evidently lacking, resulting in many bad losses which was hurting their playoff chances by the game.