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Jarred Vanderbilt still believes Lakers can be a contender this season

Despite being in the middle of their worst stretch of the season, Jarred Vanderbilt still feels the Lakers can be title contenders.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Through absolutely no fault of his own, a lot of what has gone wrong for the Lakers this season can be traced back to Jarred Vanderbilt’s injury in the preseason and the ripple effects it had. The Lakers had Vanderbilt as a big part of their plans — perhaps too big, to some degree — and when he went out, things started unraveling.

By no means is that to say it is either his fault or that this was to be expected, but Vanderbilt was a big part of the Lakers success and getting them deep in the playoffs last season. Knowing how good this team could be is something that Vanderbilt admitted impacted his decision to return before being fully healthy.

Despite not being back to full strength and still experiencing pain, Vanderbilt returned to the court because he felt the Lakers were contenders. Now, after being back for multiple weeks and the Lakers having quite the dip in form, Vando was asked after the team’s loss on Friday if he still felt team was a title contender.

“Nah, I still believe,” Vanderbilt said. “It’s the NBA. We’re just going through a rough patch right now. It happens on every single team I’ve been on. Whether we started off hot or started off slow, it’s our time. Everybody goes through it. This is just our time that we’re going through.

“Like I said, we just have to figure out something that we all can do individually to help our team get better and then collectively come together as a unit and try to achieve that goal.”

There are a couple of interesting things to note of Vando’s response. For one, he’s one of multiple Lakers to call for individual improvement to help the Lakers snap their losing skid, joining Austin Reaves and Anthony Davis.

But also calling it a semi-regular occurrence is notable. While this Lakers run has been worse than any sort of regular struggle an NBA team goes through, most all teams do go through a lull period. The Lakers being the Lakers and in the market they are in means things are going to be amplified, both good and bad.

This, again, isn’t to suggest that things aren’t as bad as they seem. They are pretty bad! But they aren’t to a point of no return...yet.

Getting out of the current rut and back to title contention is quite the ask, but not one greater than this team faced last season. Can they find a bit of lightning in a little for a second time?

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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