The Los Angeles Lakers are attempting to prevent a free fall after slipping to the #6 seed in the Western Conference playoff standings, but they just got a batch of terrible news with guard Dennis Schroder out 10 to 14 days due to the NBA’s COVID-19 safety and health protocols.
If Schroder is out for a full two weeks with COVID-19, he’ll miss the remainder of the regular season. The Lakers have eight games remaining on their schedule.
Schroder averages 15.5 ppg. 5.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game in his first season with the Lakers. He joined the team in the offseason after spending the last two seasons as the Sixth Man for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“We need to be healthy,” added LeBron James. “If it’s not one thing it’s another.”
Despite the recent turn of events, the Lakers are the consensus favorites to win the 2021 NBA Championship and back-to-back titles. A healthy Lakers squad will be tough to beat in the playoffs, but anything less than optimal versions of LeBron and Anthony Davis makes them a vulnerable target.
LeBron Down Again
LeBron prematurely exited the Toronto Raptors game on Sunday. He aggravated his ankle and missed the closing minutes of a 121-114 loss.
LeBron appeared in his second game since returning from a severely sprained ankle. He missed 20 games with the ankle injury. Even though he suited up for the first time in nearly six weeks the other night, he still wasn’t 100%.
“The last two games at halftime, after the break, it’s gotten a little sore on me, a little tight,” LeBron told the LA Times. “I don’t want to say I came back too early, but at the end of the day, I had to test it out and see where I was at.”
Before he exited the Raptors game midway through the fourth quarter, LeBron tallied 19 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes.
On Monday, head coach Frank Vogel confirmed that LeBron will miss Monday’s game against the Denver Nuggets. His status for the rest of the week is day-to-day.
The play-in tournament has drawn immense criticism from fans and players. Obviously, teams on the bubble are all in favor of the play-in games. But many players view the play-in tournament as a cash grab for the NBA’s media partners.
“Whatever that thing is, whoever came up with that s–t needs to be fired,” said James.
The Lakers dropped three games in a row and six out of their last seven. They’re now stuck in a three-way tie with the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks with a 36-28 record. If the Lakers continue their slide and sink to the #7 seed or higher, they’ll be forced to participate in the play-in game.
No matter how the rest of the season and playoff seeding shakes out, the Lakers are more concerned with the health of their players, especially LeBron and Davis.
“Our team is predicated on health,” added LeBron. “That is the number one thing for our ball club. We’re a team that we need to be healthy and we need to be full. Health is going to be the biggest thing for us down the stretch, more than the games that we’re playing.”
On Deck: Nugs, Clippers, Blazers
The Lakers face the red-hot Denver Nuggets on Monday night. It will also be the second game of a back-to-back series for the Lakers. The Nugs recently moved into the #3 seed in the Western Conference playoff hunt after they beat the LA Clippers on Saturday night.
On Thursday, the Lakers square off against their intercity rivals. The Clippers are the home team in that one. The Clips meeting is the first of back-to-back games. The Lakers fly up to Portland to take on Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. On Sunday, the Lakers return home to Hollywood for a showdown against the Phoenix Suns, who are currently tied with the Utah Jazz for the top seed in the West.
Next week, the Lakers head to New York City for a big game against the New York Knicks. The Knicks, the surprise team in the league, hold down the #4 seed in the Eastern Conference. If I told you that at the start of May, the Knicks and Lakers would have the same record, you’d probably think I was eating lead paint chips.
The Lakers catch a break with the final three games against losing teams including the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, and New Orleans Pelicans.