On Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers will take on the Portland Trail Blazers, looking to start a little bit of a winning streak after breaking one of the losing variety in their most recent game. That game occurred up in the bay, where the Lakers were able to beat the Stephen Curry-less Golden State Warriors to a final score of 109-103.
For the most part in that contest, the newly acquired Lakers impressed early and often in this new phase of their careers, with D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt most notably having some good games to start (“Restart” in Russell’s case) their time wearing the purple-and-gold.
Given the win immediately following the trade deadline, you’d think everything would be all sunshines and rainbows surrounding the team. It does sound like the locker room has been rid of the vampire within, however, that doesn’t mean the path forward doesn’t have any more obstacles to overcome.
Needing LeBron and AD
Although this new era of Lakers basketball got off to a good start, the team’s remaining superstars are struggling individually.
Davis had one of his worst offensive games of the season vs. the Warriors (he did play well on defense), only scoring 13 points on a putrid 5-19 shooting from the field. He also turned the ball over 4 times.
He is still ramping up from the Jan. 25 return he had from injury, a return that came after missing 20 straight games due to the stress injury in his right foot. He started out slow returning with a minutes restriction, but then quickly put up two straight 30+ point games as the calendar turned to February — while only demonstrating flashes of the athletic and powerful dominance he was showing in his play before injury.
Curiously, this especially poor play on the offensive end started in this past Tuesday’s game vs. the Thunder, the final game before the NBA Trade Deadline. It was the game in which LeBron James broke the all-time scoring record, and Davis seemed especially down and upset on the otherwise joyous night. Well, they did lose, and it turns out that that is exactly why Davis was upset.
Whatever the reason is for Davis’s inability to quickly get back to his former self — whether it’s just shaking off the cobwebs or a mental thing — the Lakers need it soon as they themselves need to start ramping up. Davis’s average since returning of 22.3 points per game on 45.9% field-goal shooting just won’t cut it.
The issues with LeBron James are a little more straightforward... well... sort of straightforward.
The issue is that he may now be injured, as his left foot is reportedly giving him “unbearable” pain at times, despite Rob Pelinka noting recently that imaging on the foot came back “clean and good.” When he sat out Thursday’s game vs. the Bucks, the optimistic hope was that he needed a break after going so hard in the preceding record-setting game. However, that optimistic take was nullified in the Warriors game as he had to miss time yet again.
The Lakers may be able to, again, take advantage of another fellow middling Western Conference team on Monday in the form of the 12th-seeded Trail Blazers, but at some point, they will need their stars to shine alongside this new group. And they won’t be able to enter the fray of the play-in or playoffs with only a couple of games of that occurring. Multiple games of great play together will be needed to build any sort of impactful cohesion needed for those long and tough playoff series.
If that can start on Monday, then there will be plenty of time left in the remaining 25 games to do just that.
Notes and Updates
- LeBron James (left ankle soreness) will be questionable. In past weeks, we were able to still be optimistic about these questionable designations, however, it seems now that we must respect them. It’ll likely be a game-time decision on whether or not LeBron plays. He was seen at the Super Bowl on during the preceding Sunday night.
- It’s not Anthony Davis’s foot that’s causing his distressing offensive play of late, as he will be listed as probable on the report.
- The newly acquired Mo Bamba still hasn’t made his purple-and-gold debut, and he will not be doing so in Monday’s game as he will be serving the final game of his suspension from a fight with Austin Rivers prior to the trade that brought him to L.A. from Orlando. Scotty Pippen Jr. and Cole Swider (G-League play) will also be out.
- The following can be found on the Trail Blazers’ injury report: Jusuf Nurkic (left calf strain) is out, Justise Winslow (left ankle sprain) is out, Ibou Badji (left knee soreness) is out, Jerami Grant (concussion protocol) is questionable, Kevin Knox II (pending trade) is questionable, Keon Johnson (right ankle sprain) is probable, and Trendon Watford (right ankle sprain) is probable.
The Lakers and Trail Blazers will tip off at 7:00 p.m. PT. The game will be televised on Spectrum SportsNet.
You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.