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Lakers vs. Bucks Preview: Can LA’s latest trade move save their season?

Thursday’s game will tell us a lot about the state of this Lakers team moving forward and whether or not there’s still fight left in them.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Milwaukee Bucks Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Now that LeBron James has solidified himself as the greatest scorer in NBA history (at least statistics-wise), one of the most anticipated events in line for this season is over. James is going to wake up today feeling like a more accomplished man and rightfully so, but the rest of the purple and gold meanwhile, should wake up feeling more concerned about their team’s current state.

The Lakers lost yet another crucial game to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday and are now 25-30 this season,sitting in 13th place in the mediocre Western Conference. They’ve been brutally losing every must-win game ahead of them and at this point, it’s fair to wonder if there’s any more fight in this team.

Because with the way this Lakers team has been playing as of late, maybe it’s now fair to wonder if Tuesday’s game — when James officially became the NBA’s scoring king — was the last game this season worth paying any attention to. From Anthony Davis’ lethargic and dispiriting showing (more on that in just a little bit), to Darvin Ham’s head-scratching coaching decision (which he seems to consistently repeat every game) to the team’s overall effort on both sides of the floor, the Lakers proved on why they’re one of the worst teams in their conference.

But on Wednesday, the Lakers finally said enough is enough, and made a trade to free themselves from the Russell Westbrook experience. Out goes Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones and a top four protected first-round pick and in comes D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt in a three-team trade that involved the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves. After what the Lakers have been through in the past year and a half, this is much needed good news and one that can potentially save their season.

However, at this point, there are still more questions than answers surrounding this Lakers team. It’s been an eventful week for various reasons and it’s far from over. Ahead of Thursday’s primetime tilt against the Bucks, here are three vital questions that still need to be answered:

Can this trade really salvage the season?

Whether or not this trade salvages the season is still up in the air but the rest of it also relies heavily on the team’s current mental state and spirit. As I reiterated above, it’s fair to ask if there’s still fight left in this Lakers team. It surely didn’t look like it on Tuesday nor was it crazy and unfair for some fans to think that this season could pretty much be cooked. Now more than ever, this team has to play like they actually want to win basketball games because their final stretch is significantly more pressuring and filled with must-win games.

It’s also going to be a tough task for Ham to incorporate three new potential rotation players into the mix. That’s what happens when you execute a trade 55 games into the season. The biggest question is if the next 27 games can make a difference for this Lakers team to make one last push to achieve their goal of at least making it into the Playoffs.

What’s up with Anthony Davis?

If there was one thing arguably worst than AD’s 13-point night on Tuesday, it was his dispirited body language (which raised a lot of eyebrows) throughout the entire game. It may have been excusable on any random night, but certainly not when his co-star and close friend (as he always refers to James) reached atop of the NBA’s scoring mountain. This corresponding clip below, which made its rounds on social media, has put Davis in hot water over the past 48 hours:

As tempting as it is to call Davis out for such an awkward and uncharacteristic gesture, nobody besides Anthony Davis knows what’s up with Anthony Davis. Unfortunately for him though, what won’t be forgotten is that he just had his worst game in a Lakers uniform on Tuesday from all nights — when millions around the world were tuned in. How AD responds to this is something worth monitoring and there’s no better way for him to bounce back than going toe-to-toe and getting the best out of Giannis Antetokounmpo today.

From potential incoming roster construction moves to their performance tonight, today will tell us a lot about the state of this Lakers team moving forward and whether or not there’s still a lot of fight left in them.

Notes and Updates

  • Before we get to the injury report and all the latest trade news around the league, if you’re still not over LeBron’s incredible milestone, you can soak it all in by reading some of the best stories we wrote in the past 24 hours on our site.
  • The Lakers are stumbling upon a Bucks team that has won eight straight games. They’ve found their groove lately and unlike their last matchup in December, are healthier than they’ve been all season. This is obviously going to be a tough task for the Lakers in a once again, must-win.
  • Los Angeles is listing Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury) as probable for tomorrow while LeBron James (left ankle soreness) was downgraded to out. Scotty Pippen Jr. and Cole Swider (G-League two-way) are going to be with the South Bay Lakers.
  • Bucks are listing Giannis Antetokounmpo (right knee soreness) and Brook Lopez (illness) as probable tomorrow while Joe Ingles (left knee) and Bobby Portis (MCL sprain) are out.
  • The trade deadline officially concludes today at 3 p.m. ET. A lot of groundbreaking trades have already shaken the league starting with Kevin Durant’s move to the Phoenix Suns. You can keep up with all the latest trade news on our main website.

The Lakers and Bucks will tip off at 7 p.m. PT on Thursday. The game will be televised nationally on TNT and locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

For all the latest heading into the NBA trade deadline, check out our Silver Screen and Roll Lakers trade rumors tracker. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.

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