With the Lakers eliminated from play-in game contention and all three players dealing with injuries, airing on the side of caution may be the best approach for the team over the final games of the season.
The Big Three are out tonight against Golden State:— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) April 7, 2022
- LeBron with ankle soreness
- Anthony Davis with foot soreness
- Russell Westbrook with right shoulder soreness
The trio played 21 games together this season (11-10), and that might be all they ever play together.
One source close to the situation said Tuesday that LeBron was likely to continue sitting — no matter what that did to his scoring title chances — if the Lakers were eliminated from play-in consideration. We’ll soon see if that stance holds.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 7, 2022
More NBA: https://t.co/LGN9cVpeGP https://t.co/lXOn1wd54G
James has been dealing with a sprained ankle that has largely kept him sidelined for all but one game since he suffered the injury against the Pelicans on March 27. Russell Westbrook was listed as questionable heading into Thursday’s game with right shoulder soreness, a new designation on the injury report for a player who has previously only missed one game this season.
Westbrook’s best ability this season has been his availability. The one game missed was against Portland in early Feburary, a night the Lakers had both LeBron and Anthony Davis available. Still, the 78 games played by Westbrook is the most in a season for the guard since 2017-18 in Oklahoma City.
As for James, his absence from the lineup is far less surprising. After playing through injury on April 1 against the Pelicans, James hasn’t taken the court since. To most easily qualify for the scoring title he is firmly in the chase for statistically, James would need to play two more games for the Lakers this season, though a possibility exists of him just playing one more game and still winning. But based on him playing just once over the last six games, Thursday included, neither option feels particularly likely right now.
Like James, Davis’ lingering injury makes it a rather easy decision to sit him on Thursday. On Sunday, a very clearly hobbled Davis did all he could to keep the Lakers in the game against the Nuggets and while that was admirable and needed at the time, there’s no sense in continuing to do that with the season done and dusted. Sitting him the remainder of the season will allow him to head into the offseason injury-free for the first time since joining the Lakers as well.
It also wouldn’t be a surprise for the Lakers to also sit Anthony Davis, who was also listed as questionable coming into the game with his right foot sprain. With literally nothing to play for, the health of the Lakers superstars heading into the offseason should be priority No. 1.
With James and Westbrook likely out on Thursday, expect a number of formerly-exiled Lakers to re-enter the rotation. Kent Bazemore, Wayne Ellington and Trevor Ariza all feel likely players to get minutes on Thursday while Stanley Johnson and Austin Reaves could likely see an increase as well.