At the midpoint of the 2023-22 NBA season, things haven’t exactly gone to plan for the Los Angeles Lakers, who find themselves trailing behind the contending pack.
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Sitting in ninth place (24-25) in the Western Conference, 3.0 games behind the sixth-place Denver Nuggets and a whopping 15.0 games short of the conference-leading Phoenix Suns, the Lakers are squarely in range. Play-In with serious work. do.
LeBron James injury update
Even though LeBron James played some of the best basketball of his career, his season has been somewhat derailed by injuries and absences from the COVID-19 health and safety protocol, along with Russell’s slow start to life. Westbrook in Los Angeles. James sat out Thursday’s 18-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers as they once again fell on the wrong side of .500 heading into the second straight night in Charlotte.
The team announced shortly before Thursday’s notice that James would not play, listing him day-to-day with a knee injury. It is the 13th game he has missed this season with the Lakers posting a 5-8 record in games he has missed.
The good news? Eight-time All-Star Anthony Davis is back in the lineup, returning for Tuesday night’s 106-96 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. Davis had missed the Lakers’ previous 17 games after spraining his left ACL on Dec. 17 in a matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Lakers were 10-10 in games Davis has missed this season.
First play of the match. great to have you back @Ant_Davis23 🙌 pic.twitter.com/dljoittWhw
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 26, 2023
Los Angeles’ visit to Brooklyn was the third game of a six-game road trip that continues with games against the 76ers, Hornets and Hawks, with a matchup against the defending champion Bucks the following week. Of their seven games remaining before the trade deadline, with only two teams playing over .500 and outside of their game against the Bucks, on paper they have a chance to put together a hot streak and make up some ground in the classification.
According to Tankathon, the Lakers have the third-toughest remaining schedule this season and their upcoming stretch of games before the trade deadline could prove pivotal in the direction of their season.
Next schedule of the Lakers 2023-22
|Date||Adversary||Time (ET)||national television|
|January 28||in the hornets||7:30 pm||ESPN|
|January 30th||in hawks||13:00||–|
|February 2||vs. Trail Blazers||10:00 pm||–|
|February 3rd||in Clippers||10:00 pm||TNT|
|February 5th||against the Knicks||8:30 pm||ABC|
|February 8th||against dollars||10:00 pm||TNT|
|february 9||in Trail Blazers||10:00 pm||–|
With their full roster back on the court, this next stretch of games will give them a good indication of where they stand, amid speculation that some changes could be on the way.
It’s no secret that the Lakers need something to change and while Davis’ return could well be the lightning rod to spark a run and get them back on track, their roster issues run deeper than simply having lost Davis for an extended period.
Head coach Frank Vogel’s job security has been the subject of recent speculation, with reports emerging that he is “training for his job” as the Lakers struggle to gain ground in the Western Conference. A losing streak of games before the trade deadline could be the final straw for Lakers management, who are desperately trying to make the most of what remains of LeBron James’ championship window. (Although it looks like it could be another 10 years)
With limited salary-cap flexibility and almost no draft capital, making a move at the deadline will be tough. The Russell Westbrook-sized elephant in the room is the easiest to pinpoint with the nine-time All-Star struggling to impact the team’s offense consistently, averaging 18.6 points (his lowest since 2009-10), 7.9 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game in 44.1/29.9/67.5 shooting splits, not to mention he’s making $44 million this season and has a $47 million player option on 2023-23.
“The challenge is how to be the version of myself for this team, that’s what I’m trying to figure out,” Westbrook told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “I want to improve as the season goes on, and I have to take responsibility for the things that I am doing and how I am improving those around me. We have a legitimate shot at being able to win it all, and to do that, I’m going to have to be better, and I know I will be.”
Finding a buyer for Westbrook will be difficult, with Rockets guard John Wall a name that has come up in recent days. the undefeated Marc Spears reported on Tuesday about the ring collective podcast, that the only “realistic” goal for the Rockets to make a deal for Wall would be for Westbrook, however, would they look to get Westbrook off the bench if it suited them here? It seems unlikely.
“They told me they have a couple on the table, several on the table, but the only one that really has some, you know, realistic potential is with the Lakers for Russ. They actually do, I don’t know if it’s about the same dollar, but a similar salary, so you can trade them one-for-one without including anyone else. That 2027 Lakers pick you mentioned earlier, that first-round pick, seems to be pretty coveted, and I’d expect it to be included in such a deal. But John is in Miami. He’s been working out. In fact, he asked the Rockets for permission to be in Miami so he can be around his kids and focus on working out.”
NBA reporter Marc Stein reported that if Westbrook were to find himself back in Houston, he would likely be sought out for a buyout, with their primary goal being to get out of Wall’s contract and acquire the 2027 draft pick from the Lakers.
MORE: Lakers, Warriors among most interesting teams at trade deadline
Wall, who hasn’t played a single game for the Rockets this season, appears to be a better fit on paper than Westbrook, but is it a move that puts them over the top? Probably not.
Kendrick Nunn and Talen Horton-Tucker have also been involved in trade talks along with future draft assets, but what the Lakers might get in return remains in question.
If the Lakers are able to string together a series of games before the trade deadline, with their entire roster on deck, maybe the trade talks will die down, but as things stand, something has to change for the Lakers, as Whether it’s on the roster or the coaching staff, we’ll just have to wait and see.