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Lakers vs. Trail Blazers Preview: This sucks

LeBron James has missed three straight games, with the Lakers losing in each. He will be doubtful for Wednesday’s game against the Trail Blazers, with additional absences possibly on the horizon.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are not doing well right now.

In fact, “not doing well” is perhaps underselling how poor a position they’re currently in. The team is in the midst of their third three-game losing streak of the season, losing late in each of their past two games against the Hawks and Hornets after being outmatched against the 76ers. Their record now stands at 24-27, the furthest below .500 they’ve been all year.

However, as it has been the case throughout this entire season, the next game serves as a potential turning point. Whether it’s through a rotation change ,or a formerly injured player returning to the court, the Lakers have always found a way to bounce back and get a hope-inducing win before finding a way to regress and kick us in the metaphorical nether regions immediately in their next game. To see that, only need to have looked at their record throughout the season, as it has hovered around .500 since opening night on Oct. 19.

Their latest bounce-back opportunity comes Wednesday night, as the team will be taking on the Portland Trail Blazers. Given how tough the Lakers’ schedule will be for the rest of the season, it would behoove the team to take care of business against a 21-30 Trail Blazers squad that is without Damian Lillard with likely plans to be sellers prior to the trade deadline on February 10th.

Here’s the thing though...

LeBron James is out, which means any game is a potential loss

Just as the Trail Blazers will be without their best player, the Lakers will almost certainly be without their’s, as The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports that LeBron James will miss Wednesday’s game due to his ongoing knee soreness, with the potential of additional absences coming after that. The team all but confirmed James will be out against the Blazers, as he is being listed as doubtful on the injury report after not practicing Tuesday.

LeBron has previously been day-to-day with day-of-game decisions on his status being made in the 76ers and Hornets games before he flew to L.A. without the team on Sunday to get treatment as they took on the Hawks.

The team will continue to call him day-to-day moving forward. However, Charania — who let’s just say breaks a ton of stories about Klutch Sports clients — wouldn’t have reported this if LeBron, his camp, and the Lakers didn’t at least have a hunch that this could cause him to miss several games.

Great timing, huh? Anthony Davis had just returned in the game preceding LeBron’s first absence with this knee issue. In that game against the Nets, the two played alongside Russell Westbrook in only their 16th game together as a trio. In addition, Frank Vogel replaced Trevor Ariza in the starting lineup with Stanley Johnson, and the team looked like the best version of themselves since their Jan. 17th win against the Jazz.

But just like what happened the day after that improbable and amazing win against the Jazz, it seems the Basketball Gods will not allow Lakers fans to have joy about this team for more than 24 to 48 hours.

I could dive into how Westbrook, Davis, and the rest of the team will fare against the Trail Blazers, but really... what’s the point?

A win against the 11th seed in the Western Conference won’t do much for morale, even if the Lakers are only three games ahead of them in the 10th seed. And even though some Lakers fans may be expecting a win even without LeBron, that would be foolish even against the Trail Blazers, as the Lakers are 5-10 without The King this season. That includes two losses against the Thunder, who went on to record the worst loss in NBA history shortly afterwards and have a current record of 15-34.

So yeah, this sucks. Will it get better for the team before the postseason arrives? I don’t know. Any positive expectations for the rest of this season start with LeBron being healthy, and right now he isn’t. It’s easy to feel hopeless as a result.

We’ll see if the team can respond to this adversity and get a win in a game against the Trail Blazers that they should be capable of winning. But if they don’t, then the doom and gloom around this team will continue, with no possible end in sight for as long as LeBron’s knee continues to keep him out.

Notes and Updates:

  • Kendrick Nunn will remain out, with LeBron expected to be out with a “doubtful” designation on the injury report. Anthony Davis and Malik Monk are listed as probable, with the latter likely to return to the starting lineup Wednesday after starting Sunday against the Hawks.
  • Damian Lillard (abdominal surgery in mid-January), Larry Nance Jr. (bone bruise), Cody Zeller (knee surgery last week), and Nassir Little (torn labrum surgery) will all be out with their respective long-term injuries. CJ Elleby missed the Blazers’ most recent game on Monday with a left hamstring strain, with his status for Wednesday’s game uncertain.
  • Around the league, the NBA announced the Rising Stars rosters for the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend, with our sweet child Austin Reaves getting snubbed.

The Lakers and Trail Blazers will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. PT, with the game being televised exclusively on Spectrum SportsNet.

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

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