UPDATE: LeBron James and Anthony Davis are both going to play against the Memphis Grizzlies. Danny Green will sit out, and Alex Caruso is starting in his place. This move may cramp the spacing a bit and it’s kind of surprising that James is playing given that the Lakers have another game tomorrow, but this starting lineup is at the very least an intriguing reason to watch.
Original story follows.
The Los Angeles Lakers were without LeBron James in their most recent win, and as of Friday night the team’s injury report has gotten even more crowded. The Lakers are currently listing Danny Green (right hip soreness) as doubtful to play against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night, while James (groin soreness) is questionable to play. Anthony Davis (left elbow soreness) is probable.
It seems likely Davis will play given his designation, but it’s worth noting that the last time those three guys all sat out, the Lakers got a blowout win over the Oklahoma City Thunder behind stellar efforts from Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo.
That said, a blowout win might not be what the Lakers are searching for against the Grizzlies.
The Lakers have a unique opportunity to tilt the playoff race in their favor over this weekend back-to-back, as their Saturday opponent (the Grizzlies) is currently jostling for the eighth and final Western Conference Playoff spot with their Sunday one (the New Orleans Pelicans). I’m not going to definitively say that the Lakers want to lose against the Grizzlies, but if they wanted the most advantageous and drama-free playoff matchup, it might make more sense to do what they can to help the Grizzlies get in the eighth spot.
At 28-30, the Grizzlies have a three-game lead on the Pelicans (and Portland Trail Blazers) to make the playoffs, but the young upstarts are also dealing with the loss of Jaren Jackson Jr., who is out for at least another week with a knee injury, and have lost five games in a row.
The players that go out against the Grizzlies on Saturday will surely try to win, but it might make more sense, organizationally, for the Lakers to exercise caution here, let James and Green (and possibly Davis) rest up for their Sunday game, and potentially help set the stage for an easier first-round playoff matchup against the gimpy and inexperienced Grizzlies instead of a bunch of angry, rolling Pelicans from a city and team with no love lost for Davis and the Lakers.
L.A. would likely beat either team fairly handily, but why make things harder than they have to as they gear up for what they hope is a long playoff run?
Still, as noted above, the Grizzlies have been real bad lately — they have the third-worst offense in the NBA over the last 10 games — and if Rondo and Kuzma go off again like they did against the Warriors, the Lakers may be able to basically win on accident.
And in all honesty, the team probably isn’t even thinking about seeding when they’ve steamrolled both of these teams all season, but getting James an extra day of rest for the same issue that essentially ended the Lakers’ season last year can’t be a bad thing, and continuing to be cautious with Green after a long title run last year is probably smart too.
All of the above goes double given that the Lakers have important matchups with the Milwaukee Bucks, LA Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers this week. They might as well save their horses for the real races later in the week, to say nothing of Sunday’s opponent looking more threatening than Saturday’s, both this weekend and beyond.
I’m just saying.
We’ll see what approach the Lakers take when they tip off against the Grizzlies at 5:00 p.m. PST on Saturday night. The game will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet.
Notes and Updates
- Frank Vogel is still trying to figure out lineups that can work for the postseason. These new starters might be one.
- Those of you hoping for J.R. Smith on the buyout market (were there any of you?) may have to keep waiting, as he says the team hasn’t reached out to him.
- I wrote about what Frank Vogel thinks has made Caruso better lately — perhaps what’s helped him start? — and how Caruso has impressed Anthony Davis,
- I also wrote about why Markieff Morris is excited to be a Laker.
- We will update this story with any updates to the injury report. Whatever happens, enjoy(?) the game, and thanks for spending some time with us today on this website.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.