(photo credit: LA Times)
by Nick Hamilton (@NickHamiltonLA)
EL SEGUNDO, CA — With approximately 25 games remaining in the regular season, it’s now time for Los Angeles Lakers (28-29) to put the collective efforts and energy into making a playoff appearance this season. Something this team hasn’t accomplished in the past five seasons. This season has been one of a peaks and valleys. The Lakers this season have fallen below expectations. Some had expectations that viewed this team in one of the top four spots and reaching the second round if not the Western Conference Finals. Now the purple and gold hope they reach the seventh or eighth seed in the playoff picture. The Lakers currently are three games out of the final playoff spot, so in essence this team has to truly lock in.
The Lakers have experienced crucial injuries that have limited them from truly achieving greater results. From the time James suffered an injury on Christmas night against the Warriors, to point guard Rajon Rondo who missed 32 games due to multiple hand injuries, and the occasional injuries from Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma have slowed down this team on the floor. The team suffered another setback before the All-Star break as their second year guard Lonzo Ball suffered an ankle injury that landed him on the sidelines for 4-6 weeks.
On Wednesday, the Lakers returned to practice except for Ball who continues to work his way back from injury. James, Josh Hart and the rest of the squad have a sense of urgency regarding the remaining schedule.
Since his return from injury, James is averaging 23 ppg, 11.5 apg, and 10 rebounds while shooting approximately 39% from downtown. In order for the Lakers not to miss the post season while Ball recovers, James’ is going to shoulder much of the load to lead this team to their goal. With reports that some inside the organization are concerned about James’ health, he’ll be looked upon to step up and lead.
The Western Conference standings have been tight all season long, and it will be no cake walk for Lakers down the stretch. However if they can finish either 20-5 or 18-7 with some luck, they’ll be able to squeeze into the playoffs and not be locked out.