With Monday’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers’ playoff hopes are all but over. The Lakers are 5.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Clippers with 18 to go, and have one of the toughest schedules left with only 5 games against non-playoff opponents. FiveThirtyEight only gives a team with LeBron James a 2% chance of reaching the postseason. Even if you thought at the beginning of the season that the Lakers would not be competitive with the upper tiers of the Western Conference, no one expected this.
But with the Lakers’ season nearly over, the question now is what happens next. Will LeBron James finally activate “playoff mode,” and the team rallies for one final desperate run to reach the eighth seed? Or will we see new, mysterious injuries sprout up as this team folds and prepares for next season?
Looking at Past Injuries
If we are going to discuss injuries, we should first deal with one argument for this Lakers season. Some Lakers fans will inevitably point to injuries as the primary cause for this collapse. LeBron James has missed 18 games, and Lonzo Ball has missed over a month with an ankle injury. If the team had been healthier, maybe they would not be in such a hole. If Brandon Ingram, the one Lakers who has surpassed expectations this season, was playing, maybe that loss to the Clippers could have been different.
Perhaps. Lakers and Ball fans will often recite the statistic reported by the Los Angeles Times that the Lakers’ defensive rating has risen from a top-10 defense to one of the worst league with Lonzo Ball’s absence. And the Lakers went just 6-12 during LeBron’s missed 18 games. If LeBron had been around for that stretch and the Lakers had won 3 or 4 more, they would still be right in the playoff hunt despite this recent abysmal stretch.
But it is foolish to think like that. LeBron James is 34 years old, with incredible wear and tear from years of playing and going deep into the playoffs. It is fanciful to think that he can play all 82 games without trouble. Ball is also somewhat similar, when we consider that he played just 52 games last year.
Injuries are an inherent facet of playing in the NBA and many players commonly require skin & wound care supplies to treat them. Teams are defined by how they react to them, whether it is by players stepping up or by the front office signing useful replacements. And the Lakers have failed in both regards, and instead have chosen to send valuable players away like the ludicrous Ivica Zubac trade.
Shutting Things Down
So what is next? Sporting News reports that Kyle Kuzma will not be available for Wednesday’s game against the Denver Nuggets, though it sounds like Lakers fans can expect him to return to the court sooner rather than later. And LeBron James indicated that he will not sit out any games for the rest of the season unless he is hurt.
But while LeBron has his pride, Lakers fans should wonder if this really is the best course of action. LeBron during this stretch has often been compared to 2013 Kobe, who carried a struggling Lakers team and went absolutely bonkers to drag his team to the playoffs. But then he tore his Achilles, the Lakers were unceremoniously swept, and Kobe was never the same again.
LeBron has never been a true scorer in the way that Kobe was, but do we want that story to end the same way again? Yes, that run by Kobe was magical. But it played a role in the Lakers’ struggles ever since, and Lakers fans certainly should not want LeBron to push himself to the limit for what is clearly a lost season. Even if a miracle should happen and the Lakers make the playoffs, does anyone think this team has the slightest prayer against the Warriors juggernaut?
Missing the playoffs after so much hope would be an embarrassment, but that can be an incentive for this front office to wake up and realize how much they have screwed up. They have failed to get this team the depth it has needed in order to chase free agents, but that very lack of depth has combined with injuries to make the Lakers a far less attractive destination.
LeBron has one more thing to chase – the fact that he will likely surpass Michael Jordan in the all-time scoring list after his next game. And he will certainly play after that. But Lakers fans should not be hoping that he pulls a 2013 Kobe. This team has been cursed with enough injury luck as it is – and while it does not excuse the Lakers’ failures, there is no reason to run further risks.
Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma Signs with Sneaker Re-Seller GOAT
GOAT is the largest authentic sneaker reselling platform in the world, and Kuzma will serve as the brand’s first ever brand ambassador.
“GOAT has inspired me to start collecting more seriously and build my style around sneakers,” Kuzma said, according to a statement on PR Newswire. “People assume that, as an NBA athlete, you can get access to any kind of sneaker you want. When in reality, it’s hard to get the exclusive releases or shoes from the past, and feel confident they’re authentic. GOAT gives me a second chance at not only the limited releases I missed, but also the shoes I wasn’t able to afford growing up.”
Steph Curry Talks LeBron James Trash Talking During Game 1 of NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry is gearing up, along with his team, to defend their 2018 NBA Championship, their 2nd in a row and 3rd in 4 years, when the 2018-2019 regular season kicks off this fall, but he is still discussing the 2018 NBA Finals.
Curry and James’ relationship is seemingly in an odd place. James was “like a mentor” to Curry when curry was in college playing at Davidson, but things seem a bit icy now as Curry’s Warriors and James’ Cavaliers (James is now on the Los Angeles Lakers) met in some heated battles in the NBA Finals over the past couple of years.
Despite the shift in their relationship, Curry was still caught of guard by James’ approach, particularly in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.
“It was never going to spill over to that” Curry said, during an appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area’s Drew Shiller).
“But it was an interesting moment …I was hot because I was trying to finish out a possession, I think it was less than a minute left, I didn’t see him coming over from the weak side so I tried to do a little soft scoop layup and he pinned it. Then he stared me down and he said something to me.
“And I was like, ‘That’s what we’re really on right now? We’re about to win and you’re worried about mean-blocking my shot and talking trash?’ And then the whole Tristan and Draymond thing happened and I went back up to him and I was like, ‘Yo, what’s up? Is this really what we’re about right now?’
“And he was like, ‘I gotta do that to make sure my teammates know I’m a mentor’ and it’s a part of his leadership and that type of deal. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb for your leadership.’ (laughter). Come on man, that’s messed up.”
The rift goes a bit deeper than that, and a book from The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson, entitled ‘Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry’, it is elaborated, highlighting a 2016 Halloween Party thrown by James that featured a dummy of Steph Curry that was on the floor, forcing guests to step over it.
Now that the two are in the same division, thanks to James’ signing with the Lakers, betting websites will have a field day this season when the two teams take the court, and James continues his mission to topple the juggernaut Warriors.
LaVar Ball Blames Lonzo’s Injuries On Lakers’ ‘Bulls–t Training’
Just in case you were hoping that, over time, the spotlight would fade on the outspoken LaVar Ball, this week shows that there is still a flicker of light left for the guy that always makes us question how in the heck is he famous?
Always to be counted on to deliver the occasional nonsensical barb, and burn a few bridges along the way, Ball is back and taking aim at his son’s team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
LaVar blamed the Lakers training staff for Lonzo’s injuries this year, and, more poetically, called it “Bullshit training”.
“He understands, he went through it. If you’re going to be doing those [workouts with] rubber-bands like that dude Gunnar has him doing, that [is] bulls–t training. That’s what I call it. S–t, he wasn’t like that when I brought him over there. When he first came [to the Lakers], he never got hurt. He was never hurt.”
Ball also added that Lonzo is hitting the weight room this offseason so he can ensure that he can last the entire 82-game season.
“It’s about being strong and durable,” Ball continued.
“If you’re training the right way, you’re going to get that. But everybody acts like it’s a special thing like, ‘Okay, this guy got big because he was [training] under this guy.’ No! Either you’re going to do it or you’re not. And a lot of people come in the [league] young not lifting weights. My boys were bred on lifting weights. Our whole damn family is buff.”
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