The Los Angeles Lakers have been away from home for the holidays.
They’ll be returning this week after a five-game road trip that first started with the Christmas Day blunder against the Dallas Mavericks. But before they return home to their loved ones, they’ll have to try not to overlook the Charlotte Hornets who will be hosting the fifth and final game of this trip.
And although the Lakers’ spirits may be lifted currently due to the recent age-defying performance from LeBron James in the team’s win on Friday against the Hawks, they’d be absolute fools to under prepare for Monday’s game against the Hornets just because of the trip home they’re looking forward to. Especially when you consider the fact that the Lakers boarded the initial plane to Dallas with the sting of the Dec. 23 home loss against the Hornets still lingering.
Here’s our preview of this game in Charlotte, as the Lakers look to return home with a 3-2 record on this trip.
Message after message from LeBron
48 hours hadn’t even passed since LeBron’s passive-aggressive post-game interview on Wednesday in Miami before he sent another message to the Lakers’ front office on Friday in Atlanta.
In that game, LeBron dropped a 47-point masterpiece with 10 rebounds and nine assists as well. By doing so, he’s continuing to show that although he may have diminished athleticism at his age, he’s still one of the most efficient and deadly three-level scorers in the NBA. With another show from the man in the arena, LeBron directly gave his team more than a fair chance at getting a win while indirectly nudging the front office to remind them that a talent like his — no matter how close Father Time may be to him — may not come again in their lifetimes.
With that indirect message, maybe Rob Pelinka will be even slightly more willing to part with draft compensation to give The King a hand.
Tabling the never-ending conversation around the 2027 and 2029 draft years while we have barely broken ground on 2023... it’s just great to witness these LeBron James performances. He’s now averaging 33.4 points per game in his last 10 games. which ranks 3rd in the entire NBA in that span. He trails only Joel Embiid (34.8) and Luka Doncic (37.2), with no one in the association over the age of 30 — let alone nearing the age of 38 that LeBron turned on Friday — averaging 30+ in that same 10-game sample size.
Even against the now 17-19 Atlanta Hawks, the Lakers needed every one of those 47 birthday points from LeBron to ultimately win — as the Hawks had as much as a 15-point lead in the 2nd quarter, controlling the game for most of the first three frames.
It’s a sad reality, but the Lakers will need to depend on these performances from LeBron to stay afloat as they await the return of Anthony Davis, who gave reporters a seemingly positive update on the stress injury in his foot ahead of Friday’s win.
Was LeBron just showing off in front of his wife and mom on his birthday? Or, combined with the positive indication on the injury report below, is Friday’s performance just a tease of an infamous run that LeBron will now go on to continue putting pressure on the Lakers’ brass?
We’ll see, starting with Monday’s game vs. the Hornets.
Notes and Updates
- LeBron James is listed as probable (left ankle soreness) on the injury report. He had been listed as questionable heading into both of the Lakers’ past couple of games, with the upgrade showing he’s feeling much better physically.
- Cole Swider and Scotty Pippen Jr (G-League play) are out. Lonnie Walker will be listed as questionable with a tailbone contusion that saw him be a late scratch ahead of Friday’s win vs. the Hawks.
- Anthony Davis will remain out for this game. Check out this article for the latest update on his injury, which was provided by the man himself.
- Cody Martin (left knee procedure) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (left hand sprain) will be out. Dennis Smith Jr. (left ankle sprain) is questionable. Smith has missed the last 18 games for the Hornets after seeming like he was about to have a career resurgence in the beginning of the season. He’s averaged 9.3 points and 5.7 assists per game this season which would both be his highest marks since his 2018-19 season with the Knicks.