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LeBron James says Lakers are ‘one of the better teams’ in NBA when healthy

With so many key players out against the Spurs, the Lakers struggled and had one of their worst losses of the season. Hard to be optimistic about anything after that performance, but leave it to LeBron James to remind us that when this team is healthy, they have enough to be a contender.

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

It was all good just a couple of days ago.

On Wednesday, the Lakers took care of business, beating the San Antonio Spurs 122-119 despite being shorthanded with LeBron James out with a left calf contusion. Los Angeles won thanks to a top-level performance from Anthony Davis, who went head-to-head with the rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama and got the better of him.

Friday was the rematch and again, the Lakers had key players missing. James was back, but Anthony Davis, Cam Reddish and D'Angelo Russell were all out. With these three starters absent, the Lakers were a shell of themselves.

San Antonio snapped their losing streak and beat the Lakers 129-115.

Even with these starters missing and being on the road, you'd think the Lakers should be able to beat a team that's only won three games all season. As frustrating and borderline embarrassing as the result appears, James reminded us about the value of those missing players and what this team has looked like when healthy in his postgame availability.

"We just got to get healthy," James said. "When we're healthy, we're one of the better teams in the league. When we're not, we've had some ups and downs. I've said it over and over. When we're healthy and have our group, we can compete with anybody."

Fans might struggle to see the big picture after one of the worst losses of the season, but James does not. This team has just come off its healthiest stretch of the season and has won five of their last six games, including the In-Season Tournament title.

Should they have come out better versus the Spurs? Of course.

Giving up 42 points and being down 20 after one quarter is unacceptable. However, it happened mainly because one of the Lakers' best defending guards, Cam Reddish, was out, allowing Devin Vassell to score 36 points. Rim protection was also lacking for the Lakers with Davis not playing, allowing Wembanyama to go off with 40 points.

The Lakers never played their ideal starting five during these two games and it's safe to say had they all been available, they would've walked out of San Antonio with two wins instead of a split.

Health isn't promised to any team, and while giving context to poor performances is fair, ultimately, you are what your record says you are.

Right now, it says the Lakers are 15-11 and in the playoff mix, but they are not a top team in the West. If James is right, once they're fully healthy, they'll string together some wins and become a bonafide contender.

If health never comes or the front office thinks the roster's current makeup has some glaring weaknesses, Rob Pelinka will have to make some trades so this team has enough talent to win games without having every possible rotation player available.

Generally speaking, James is usually right when talking about the talent level of the team he's on. Fans might be frustrated today with the Lakers' most recent performance, but on Monday, they'll hang a banner thanks to their play in the In-Season Tournament.

Two things can be true at once. The Lakers have to be better, and they've already shown us they are when healthy and the stakes are raised.

You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.

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