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Lakers vs. Grizzlies Preview: Switching gears... again

The Lakers have to accept that they may be without LeBron James for “multiple weeks,” a process that will start with Tuesday’s game in Memphis against the Grizzlies.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have gone through multiple metamorphoses this season.

With Russell Westbrook being benched, Anthony Davis playing like an MVP only to be injured for a couple of months, and then Russ being traded to the Utah Jazz, there have basically been at least four different Lakers teams within the sole 2022-23 calendar year.

Sadly, it seems like Lakers fans will have to get used to a fifth version of the team this season, starting with Tuesday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Pushing forward without LeBron James

The event leading to this fifth version of the team happened Sunday, when LeBron James sustained what looked to be a borderline non-contact injury to his right foot. The play caused him to be on the floor for a significant time, however, he did end up finishing the game while having a very notable fourth quarter performance to secure the weekend’s unprecedented comeback win for the Lakers.

That was then, and this is now. And unfortunately, “now” may not be fun. As The Athletic’s Shams Charania first reported below, the Lakers are now preparing to be without LeBron for “multiple weeks.”

My fellow writers here at Silver Screen & Roll will be sure to get you the analysis of what this means for the Lakers moving forward through the rest of this season, but what about right now? Can the Lakers find a way to start this new version of themselves with a win against the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies?

Despite their place far above the Lakers in the standings, that hypothetical may not be as outlandish as you’d expect.

After an 11-game winning streak in the month of January, the Grizzlies immediately fell off a cliff with a 5-10 record in their last 15 games leading into Tuesday’s contest vs. the Lakers. The most noteworthy aspect of that losing streak is the absence of Steven Adams, who has been out for nearly that entire 15-game stretch.

The Grizzlies have had the 21st-ranked net rating in that time, and it isn’t necessarily because of the absence of Adams’s all-world rebounding ability. The Grizzlies’ offense has simply struggled for most of the time he’s been out, notably ranked 27th in 3-point percentage during the past 15 games.

Sadly, most of the poor performances in that time came on the front end, as they are 4-2 in their last six games, including a 112-94 beatdown of the 1st-seeded Nuggets in their most recent contest.

With Adams out and only Jaren Jackson Jr. in his path, there’s a chance that the near-MVP version of Anthony Davis helps carry the Lakers to their 5th win out of 6 games since the trade deadline. Of course, there’s also a chance that the team immediately feels the monumental loss of LeBron’s play and loses a game on the road against the Grizzlies when it seemed like the team was ready to crash the Western Conference playoff picture just 24 hours ago.

If the Lakers’ team can keep their optimism and lean on AD to start this new chapter in the 2022-23 season, then maybe they can keep this party going for long enough for LeBron to show up.

Notes and Updates:

  • As already noted, LeBron (right foot soreness) will be out. D’Angelo Russell (right ankle sprain) is also likely to be out, however, he hasn’t officially been ruled out, with a doubtful designation on the injury report. Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) is probable.
  • Cole Swider and Scotty Pippen Jr. (G-League play) will be out as well.
  • Despite the Tweet above that shows Steven Adams is nearing a return for the Grizzlies, he will again be out on Tuesday against the Lakers. It will be his 14th straight absence.

The Lakers and Grizzlies will tip off at 4:30 p.m. PT. The game will be televised nationally on TNT and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.

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