So really, the vibe surrounding this game should be altogether positive, right?
Sure, Luke Walton could reportedly see his lukewarm seat heat up with a loss to Chicago, and the uglier things get, the larger the shadow of a trade looms over the organization, but other than that, things are great around the Lakers! The good news is LeBron James’ injury definitely isn’t going to keep him out longer than previously expected.
Wait, that isn’t the case? James’ return is clouded in mystery? Great. Just great.
If there’s one source of potential optimism, it’s how the Lakers have responded whenever Walton’s job security was challenged. Whether it was LaVar Ball calling out the head coach last year, Magic Johnson doing so this year or other reports of Walton’s tenuous job security, the Lakers have always risen to the challenge of keeping Walton gainfully employed. Given the way the Lakers have started recently, this will be something to keep an eye on right from the get-go.
Speaking of starts, Walton said after Sunday’s loss to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers that he would be considering a change to the starting unit. In all likelihood, this probably means Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will start in Josh Hart’s place alongside Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee, although, as always, Walton was mum on specifics about any lineup changes at shootaround:
Walton wasn’t ready to disclose any line-ups changes but said there would likely be at least one tonight vs. Chicago.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) January 15, 2019
Hart’s shooting ability has fallen off a cliff in James’ absence (he’s shooting 25.4 percent from deep over the last 10 games), and the Lakers need someone to knock down shots in their starting group. Not just for the obvious reason of points mattering, but all these misses have forced the Lakers to play more defense in transition, which takes a toll on any team.
It’s wild to think that a Jan. 15 game against the Chicago Bulls would reach must-win levels of importance, but here we are. The fallout from yet another disappointing loss would be significant. We might have thought Sunday was rock bottom, but if following the Lakers for the last five-plus years have taught us anything, it’s that things can always get worse. The Lakers will have to respond accordingly to ensure they don’t.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PST and the game will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet and nationally on NBATV.