The Los Angeles Lakers are at a crossroads in the final stretch of the regular season. Once at the top in the NBA to now nearly qualifying for the play-in spot. The issue for a majority of the season are the injuries to key players. Most notably to that of Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Since returning the Lakers are 1-5 with Davis in the lineup and 0-2 with James.
“The only way is up,” Said Anthony Davis. “We really can’t get any lower than this. We just got to stay the course and stay together… Guys just have to stick together and keep going and keep working.”
In Davis’ six games, he’s averaged 16.5 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.8 blocks. However, his shooting is what has been hurting his production. Davis is shooting an abysmal 39.4% from the field and 17.4% from three. Not to mention that he isn’t getting to the free throw line as frequently before his injury, as he’s averaging four attempts in these six games.
Finding A Way To Connect
“We’re just trying to get acquainted with each other again,” Davis said. “I was out for a while, LeBron was out. I come back, LeBron comes back. DS (Dennis Schröder) is out or AC (Alex Caruso) is out. It’s just trying to find our rhythm with each other again. When we’re fully healthy and connected, especially at the beginning of the season, we showed what kind of team we can be.”
“I think that our team is predicated on health,” James said. “That is the number one thing for our ball club. We’re a team that needs to be healthy, we need to be full. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Then we show up today and our starting point guard is not in the line up so it’s like another blow for us. That’s going to be the biggest thing for us down the stretch more than the games were playing. Just how healthy we’re going to be in the stretch run.”
However, it was what Kyle Kuzma had to say that shook heads, saying that the team is not connected.
“It’s a little disappointing, we’re just not together as a whole, Kyle Kuzma told reporters. “Team, staff, everyone. We just got to get back onto it. Find a way to get things clicking again and find that spark.”
One idea that Kuzma did come up with that could light a spark is having more time with Marc Gasol on the court. At the beginning of the year, Gasol was the starting center, fast forward to now he is the third string center. The main reason being that he isn’t athletic or fast enough to play with the players on the court. Gasol was a liability on both sides of the ball for a better part of the season. Alhough Gasol has the vision to be effective for LA, looking to distribute from the perimeter more than backing down smaller defenders in the post. Although Gasol is far past his prime, should he look to be more aggressive in his touches he’ll receive more time.
LeBron Sore Ankle
Around the seven minute mark in Sunday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors, LeBron James headed to the Lakers’ locker room. Many noticed the move but had no clue as to why. It wasn’t until Lakers reporter Mike Trudell broke the news saying James had right ankle soreness.
“in the last two games at halftime, after the break it (right ankle) got a little sore on me a little tight,” James told reporters. “Obviously coach decided not to put me back in towards the end because of that. The plan is to see how I feel (tomorrow) and go from there.”
In LeBron’s two games back, he’s averaged 17.5 points, 7 rebounds and 7.5 assists in 29.7 minutes. Though he is still finding his way back from the ankle injury, he has said he won’t ever be 100% again.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get back to 100 percent. It’s impossible,” James said. “I don’t think I will ever get back to 100 percent in my career.”
The defending NBA champs have every reason to believe that when the dust settles on the 20-21 season they will be champions once again. That’s not to say it will come easy, any more than wins have come easy during the regular season. The Lakers’ hopes of repeating absolutely hinge upon LeBron’s explosiveness and Davis’ incredible efficiency. If either of those things fails to return, it could mean a premature exit for the champs.
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