The Los Angeles Lakers have dealt with a lot of upheaval and adversity with their roster this season, even before the seemingly cursed start to the NBA playoffs that’s seen them fall down 3-2 in the first round against the Phoenix Suns.
Both LeBron James and Anthony Davis have missed extended time with a multitude of serious injuries. Both of those stars — and all of the returning players from last year’s championship — are dealing with the shortest offseason in NBA history. Dennis Schröder has missed multiple stints in the health and safety protocols, while multiple other Lakers have ended up in them once. The team overhauled their center rotation midseason, and then barely had any time where the whole team was healthy to gel going into the postseason.
Was some of that adversity self-inflicted? Yes. Was some of it just an unfortunate side effect of the NBA’s rush back to play? Certainly. But what it is not, according to Schröder, is something the team can sit around and blame for their collective struggles.
“At the end of the day, we can’t use that as an excuse,” Schröder said after the Lakers’ blowout defeat against the Suns in Game 5.
That’s the mindset the Lakers have to have as competitors. They can’t change their circumstances. All they can change is their level of play, and after an 0-9 shooting night in Game 5, Schröder put the blame solely on his own shoulders.
“I know some people was out through different stuff, but at the end of the day, it’s 48 minutes, and like I said, it starts with me,” Schröder said.
Because after all, while it may have taken a uniquely tough toll on the Lakers, they weren’t the only team to go on a long bubble run and suffer the consequences of the short offseason. Their Western Conference Finals opponent, the Nuggets, were so banged up at one point that their head coach Mike Malone called Denver “the soft-tissue injury capital of the world,” and most notably lost their star point guard Jamal Murray to an ACL tear, mostly derailing their hopes of an NBA Finals run around presumptive MVP Nikola Jokic.
The Lakers’ NBA Finals opponent, the Miami Heat, got swept in the first round after their own injury-riddled season. The Boston Celtics, who the Heat played in the Eastern Conference Finals, were ravaged by injuries all year and eventually lost star Jaylen Brown. The 72-day offseason, as we all feared, appears to have taken a real and tangible toll on last year’s contenders.
Still, Schröder is trying to look on the bright side, even with the Lakers on the brink of elimination. Yes, they might be without Davis for Game 6 as he continues to deal with the groin strain he suffered in Game 4. And yes, seemingly no one on the team can hit a shot to save their lives right now.
But if there is one thing the Lakers’ shit show of a season prepared them for, it’s to face adversity. If they want to stay alive, Schröder says they’ll just have to do it one more time.
“Everybody was out at certain times. It wasn’t easy, but going through adversity, like I said before, I think it’s good for us,” Schröder said. “Now we’ve just got to stay together, everybody’s got to stay focused, have fun, go out there and play.”
The whole NBA world will be watching to see if they can do so — and keep their title defense alive in the process — when the Lakers host Game 6 at Staples Center tonight.