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Lakers vs. Hawks Preview: All eyes on LeBron James

The Lakers will look to get back in the win column on Friday vs. the Hawks. Will LeBron James be fully there mentally after his patience seemed to wear thin after Wednesday’s loss against the Heat?

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Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

After the Los Angeles Lakers broke their four-game losing streak with a win on Tuesday against the Orlando Magic, they quickly returned back to their losing ways with a pretty embarrassing loss on Wednesday against the Miami Heat.

The Lakers will now head to Atlanta to play the Hawks on Friday in game four of this current five-game road trip (which concludes Monday vs. the Hornets).

They’re now 2-5 since Anthony Davis left the Dec. 16 game vs. the Nuggets, and in that time, the ire of fans and pundits watching the team has been directed toward head coach Darvin Ham’s small-lineups. Those lineups are, of course, headlined by the one that starts each half for the team, with the 1-3 consisting of 6’1’’ Dennis Schröder, 6’2’’ Patrick Beverley, and 6’4’’ Lonnie Walker.

Luckily, in this game, that 1-3 actually matches up somewhat well against the Hawks’ starting 1-3 of Trae Young (6’1’’), Dejounte Murray (6’5’’), and rookie AJ Griffin (6’6’’). And yes, emphasis on “Somewhat.”

We’ll see if that will prove to be true or if Young and Murray will dominate regardless, but besides that, there may be a more important question to ask ourselves.

Who has worse vibes?

On Dec. 4, Shams Charania and Sam Amick released a report on The Athletic discussing tensions between Trae Young and head coach Nate McMillan. This came shortly after Young had missed a home game against the Nuggets, with the report coming after detailing a disagreement between the star and his coach which ultimately let to Young deciding not to attend the game.

Since that report, the team is 4-8, resulting in their current 17-18 record on the season. In that span of time, they’ve had the 25th-ranked net rating in the NBA which is right behind the 24th-ranked Lakers. As things continue to possibly boil under the surface — including John Collins continuously in trade rumors — Dejounte Murray had to take to Twitter on Thursday night to defend McMillan after they dropped a game late vs. the Nets.

But honestly, all of that seems preferable to what the Lakers’ current situation is.

After Wednesday’s loss vs. the Heat, LeBron James gave a postgame interview where he strongly stated his displeasure with not playing championship-level basketball, adding another page into the career-long book of “Passive-aggressive shots at LeBron’s front office, urging them to do something.”

As the OC Register’s Kyle Goon noted in an exceptional piece recently, this isn’t the first time this season that LeBron has taken jabs at the front office. However, those previous instances that Goon talked about were more of the subtle variety while Wednesday served as a scathing uppercut punch delivered from LeBron to Rob Pelinka’s face.

Will the Lakers’ backcourt actually match up well against the likes of the Hawks? If they do, will it matter if LeBron James is mentally checked out on this franchise?

The Lakers already are 100% without Anthony Davis. They can’t win any games without 100% from LeBron. 90%, 80%, and surely not 50% or less from him — mentally or physically (more on that below) — will do.

He’s been playing at 110% lately, but after his verbal takedown of the front office on Wednesday, it’ll be worth monitoring his activity on Friday vs. the Hawks.

Notes and Updates

  • The most noteworthy player on the injury report is one LeBron who will be questionable coming into this one (left ankle soreness). It should be noted that he had the same designation heading into the Heat game on Wednesday, however, that was on the second night of a back-to-back. At this time, it’s unclear whether this is just precautionary in case he’s not feeling the best on Friday, or if it’s really been bothering him in a significant way after said back-to-back.
  • The Lakers will for sure be without Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury), Max Christie, Cole Swider, and Scotty Pippen Jr (G-League assignment). Christie’s trip back to the G-League in the middle of the road trip is notable, as he was sort of in the rotation even if it was in a very minor role. Juan Toscano-Anderson returned on Wednesday vs. the Heat after a long absence due to injury, impressing in his 13 minutes of play in the second half. His return may have had an effect on Christie’s role.
  • Austin Reaves (right ankle soreness), Dennis Schröder (left foot soreness), and Lonnie Walker (tailbone contusion) will be probable. Walker’s inclusion here is notable, as that tailbone issue almost certainly came on a hard foul he took in Tuesday’s game against the Magic. He fell hard seemingly on his hip/tailbone and was very slow to get up. Luckily it seems like he will play Friday vs. the Heat, but it’s definitely something to monitor moving forward.
  • Trae Young is listed as probable (left foot soreness), while De’Andre Hunre (left ankle sprain) is listed as questionable.
  • Clint Capela (right calf strain), Jarrett Culver (G-League assignment), Vit Krejci (G-League assignment), and Tyrese Martin (G-League assignment) will be out. Capela has missed five of the team’s last six games.

The Lakers and Hawks will tip off at 4:30 p.m. PT. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBA TV, as well as locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.

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