The Los Angeles Lakers and the rest of the NBA have done it. They’ve reached the other side of the All-Star break, their lone gap in play in the season with all teams now regrouping and pushing forward to take on the remaining quarter of the season.
There are a few teams around the league with headline-stealing storylines to look out for in these remaining games. Of course, most of these stories revolve around familiar faces in new places, most notably Kevin Durant in Phoenix, Kyrie Irving in Dallas, and one Russell Westbrook (still) in Los Angeles.
The Lakers did not acquire a singular player with enough gravitas to integrate themselves amidst the nationwide intrigue in those situations... but maybe that’s a good thing.
Everyone reading is familiar with Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare, right? If you’re not, the story sees the faster (but cocky) hare jumping out to a large lead in a race against the slow (but humble) tortoise. The hare ends up squandering this lead by arrogantly taking a nap mid-race, and because the hare dismissed the tortoise’s abilities, the tortoise ends up winning.
The Lakers hope to be the tortoise in this 2022-23 NBA season.
Of course, the Lakers will be hoping that the hare (the teams above them in the standings in this foolish analogy of mine) is still in the middle of its nap. The logjam in front of them has loosened up a little, however, they’re still only 2 games back of being in the play-in tournament and only 3.5 games back of clearing the play-in and entering the playoffs as the 6th-seed.
All 30 NBA teams (well maybe aside from the ones at the bottom ready to pull ping pong balls) will now be giving 110% as the Lakers won’t have the benefit of the sleeping hare anymore. And in addition to losing that luxury, the team has plenty of questions still remaining even if head coach Darvin Ham claims the starting lineup won’t be one of them.
Will the newly acquired players — D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, and Mo Bamba — continue to show the flashes they showed just prior to the All-Star break? Will Anthony Davis return to his pre-injury form? Will LeBron James have enough left in the tank for a late-season playoff push after being in that type of mode in the month of January with AD on the bench?
With only 23 games remaining — games that have been deemed to be very important by The King — those questions are going to be answered sooner rather than later. The answers will come starting with Thursday’s matchup against the Warriors, who may be a team jostling with the Lakers for specific seeds near the middle-to-bottom of the Western Conference standings. But even if the answers to those questions are promising for the Lakers, an even more important one will remain unanswered all the way until the end of the season.
Was the hare asleep long enough?
Notes and Updates
- Stephen Curry will be out with the strain in his leg. The injury will cause Thursday to be his sixth straight game dating back to before the All-Star break. The Warriors indicated today that he was improving and would be re-evaluated next week.
- The Warriors will also be without Andrew Wiggins, who will be missing the game due to personal reasons. He missed the Warriors’ final game before the break for the same reasoning.
- The Warriors will also be without Andre Iguodala (right hip soreness), Ryan Rollins (recovering from right foot surgery), and Gary Payton II (right abductor soreness).
- For the first time in a few weeks, LeBron James is listed as probable (left foot soreness) on the injury report instead of questionable. Anthony Davis is also listed as probable (right foot stress injury), while Max Christie, Cole Swider, and Scotty Pippen Jr. (G-Leauge play) will be out.
The Lakers and Warriors will tip off at 7 p.m. PT. The game will be televised exclusively on TNT.
You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.