Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t have too many problems with injuries, especially when it came to their two superstar players, LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Combined, James and Davis only missed 13 games in the regular season. In the postseason, neither of them missed a game.
Unfortunately, this season has been a different story for the reigning champions. While James has yet to miss a game this season, Davis has missed eight games, including the last three, and he’s expected to miss at least another month due to a calf strain and re-aggravated Achilles tendinosis. Additionally, Dennis Schröder has missed the last two games due to contact tracing.
James was already carrying a heavy load to start the season, but it’s gotten even heavier in Davis’ absence. In the last three games, James’ usage percentage has jumped from 30.7% to 33.1%. The Lakers’ supporting cast outside of Schröder and Davis wasn’t exactly designed to carry the team on offense, but they want to try and make things easier on James while Schröder and Davis are out.
“Yeah, I mean that’s obviously a conscious thing,” Alex Caruso said after the Lakers’ loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday. “I mean LeBron is the best player on our team, and night in, night out he gets the attention he does because he is, and like I said, with the guys we’ve got out, teams are going to load up against him and he’s a great basketball mind and going to do his part to get guys open and make great plays ...
“It’s just about us — in that second unit especially — finding our groove offensively, playing within each other, moving the basketball, finding easy shots, trying to get guys shots they’re used to and that’s really all there is to it. It’s not some golden-ticket idea that’s going to save us or anything like that, it’s just about being efficient. It’s about finding opportunities. If you’re open you shoot it, if you’re not, make a play for somebody else.
“I think if we do that correctly more times than not it’s going to be good for us.”
Caruso was the open man in the dying seconds of Saturday’s game and although James found him, he couldn’t knock down the shot that would have sent the game into overtime. Caruso was visibly upset at himself for missing the shot, but his teammate, Kyle Kuzma, was there to let him know it was okay. For Kuzma, what’s important is that his teammates are doing all that they can to help the team win.
“That’s the biggest thing for us,” Kuzma said. “Obviously we have two starters out, it’s huge for us to make sure we keep having good, winning habits ... Win or loss. Obviously you want to go out and try to win every game, but if we can come out and everybody just contribute winning, good habits, I think we’ll be all right. Carrying that over to when those guys get back will make us a sharper team.”
While everyone might not share the belief that the Lakers are doing everything they can to help James, James himself admires the lengths his teammates have gone to try and take some of the burden of carrying the team off of him.
“They are doing their part,” James said. “They’re doing their part and more. Every time we’re out on the floor we’re all trying to protect each other and bring each other up out on the floor every single night. It doesn’t matter if you’re making shots or not, we’re going to hold each other accountable, and everybody is picking up in AD’s absence. It obviously hasn’t resulted in wins these last two games, but we’re going to keep working on our habits and continue to be great for one another.”
The Lakers will try to avoid a letdown against the Washington Wizards, the team with the fourth-worst record in the league, on Monday. The game will be broadcast on NBA TV nationally and Spectrum SportsNet locally at 7 p.m. PT.
Notes and updates
- Anthony Davis (right calf strain) and Dennis Schröder (health and safety protocols) have been listed as out for Monday’s game.
- Kostas Antetokounmpo (right knee patellar tendinitis), LeBron James (left ankle sprain), Kyle Kuzma (back strain) and Markieff Morris (right ankle sprain) are probable.