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Lakers vs. Pelicans Preview: Blinders on

Amidst a flurry of trade rumors to close out the work week, the Lakers will hopefully be able to stay focused on their tasks at hand, starting with a mid-Saturday game vs. the Pelicans.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Indiana Pacers Photo by A.J. Mast/NBAE via Getty Images

On Friday, fans of the Los Angeles Lakers were feverishly anticipating the upcoming Saturday matchup between their beloved Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans. Stemming from the Anthony Davis-centered deal between the two, there’s been a bit of a minor rivalry between the two fanbases with the next chapter in the story being the upcoming pick swap for the two teams’ first round picks in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Of course, if you’ve paid attention to NBA news at all on Friday, you know I’m joking and that the online obsession from the Lakers fans wasn’t about this game at all.

Luckily, that end-of-the-week news dump does clumsily transition us into this game preview.

Staying focused

On Friday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania dropped a bomb on Twitter, stating that Brooklyn Nets All-Star Kyrie Irving had requested a trade. Unsurprisingly, after their reported pursuits this past summer, the Lakers were quickly reported as being interested this time around. You can read the full details of all the reporting today surrounding the situation here.

And if you think Irving’s old running mate LeBron James is keeping all of his focus on the basketball being played and not what Rob Pelinka may be focused on... think again.

The news is obviously — and understandably — overshadowing this upcoming matinee game against the Pelicans. However, LeBron and the rest of the Lakers need to leave this matter to us rabid fans and the decisionmakers on the team who will try to get it done.

After all, this team is still 25-28, currently sitting at 12th in the Western Conference with Saturday’s game against the Pelicans being one of 29 remaining games in this 2022-23 campaign. It sure seems like additional help will be coming in some form or another after Feb. 9’s trade deadline, however, it’s probably not coming far in advance of that date, and it assuredly won’t be coming before Saturday’s matchup in New Orleans.

The Pelicans probably have a better top-to-bottom roster than the Lakers, making this upcoming contest not one to be taken lightly. However, it’s definitely an understatement to say this contest is winnable for the Lakers, as the Pelicans will again be without Zion Williamson while also sporting far-and-away the worst losing streak in the NBA (they’ve lost their last 10, and while our old friend Brandon Ingram is now healthy and has played in four of their last five, he was absent for the preceding 29 games).

Of course, that losing streak has to be broken at some point, and given how this Lakers season has been a robust comedy of misfortunes, you could easily convince yourself they would be the ones to give the Pelicans a win. But if the Lakers can keep their blinders on and avoid thinking about what this team will look like in a week (or, in some cases, if they’ll be on the team), then this should end up as a “W” for the purple-and-gold.

Austin Reaves still out

Sadly, Austin Reaves will not be available to help the Lakers win their third game in a row. On Thursday, head coach Darvin Ham indicated that it was realistic to expect Reaves back in the lineup for this game against the Pelicans. Ham said that Reaves simply needed to clear “one more thing” on Friday to be able to return, and unfortunately, it seems as if Reaves did not come close to clearing whatever that hurdle was, as he is designated as out on the injury report.

Hopefully he did not suffer a setback with his hamstring injury, as one would assume that a questionable designation could have been possible if he passed that test. Ham will almost certainly give us news about the last hurdle that Reaves needs to clear before the game on Saturday.

Reaves has missed the last 15 games with this injury.

LeBron James closing in on Kareem

We’re now probably three games away AT MOST from LeBron passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most total points scored in NBA history. He’s exactly 63 points away from breaking the long-held record.

I was being very conservative with “three games,” though, hence the capitalization of “at most.” Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past him to break his single-game scoring record (61 points) and just do it Saturday vs. the Pelicans. He was even asked about this crazy idea in the video clip below, but he downplayed the possiblity.

Notes and Updates

  • LeBron James (left ankle soreness) will be listed as questionable on the injury report. He’s ended up suiting up often in recent weeks even with questionable designations. Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) is probable. As noted above, Austin Reaves is out.
  • Scotty Pippen Jr and Cole Swider (G-League play) will also be out.
  • Zion Williamson (right hamstring strain) is the most notable absence for the Pelicans, but their injury report also includes Dyson Daniels (right ankle sprain), E.J. Liddell (recovery from ACL injury), and Dereon Seabron (G-League play) as out.

The Lakers and Pelicans will tip off at 3 p.m. PT. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN 2, with a local broadcast appearing on Spectrum SportsNet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.

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