The Los Angeles Lakers are in danger of not advancing past the first round of the playoffs, as their series with the Phoenix Suns is tied at 2-2 and Anthony Davis could miss Game 5 with a groin injury. If the defending champions are unable to make a deep run, we could see some serious changes to their roster this offseason.
Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report spoke with several NBA executives about the challenges the Lakers will face in the next several months. The majority of their salary cap is currently dedicated to Anthony Davis and LeBron James, and injuries to those two superstars this season were a reminder of how much L.A. could use a third star. Is Kyle Lowry a veteran who could play that role?
Dennis Schroder is set to become a free agent this offseason. The point guard already turned down a four-year, $84 million extension offer from the Lakers when they acquired him via trade last year. There have been reports that Schroder is unhappy with his role in L.A. and wants to sign with a team that will allow him to to be “the guy.”
As Fischer notes, that could present the Lakers with an opportunity to work out a sign-and-trade. However, Lowry is also set to become a free agent, so the Toronto Raptors would have work out a sign-and-trade with him as well to get him to L.A. It’s unclear if Schroder would have interest in playing for the Raptors, and he would obviously need to agree to the sign portion of the sign-and-trade.
Lowry is 35, but he still averaged 17.2 points, 7.3 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game on a bad Raptors team this season. He’s the type of veteran who could certainly help the Lakers, and they were one of several teams that pursued him earlier this year. They could resume those talks with Toronto this offseason, but the situation is much more complicated now.
Andre Drummond has sometimes seemed like a square peg in a round hole for the Los Angeles Lakers since joining them late in the season, but the organization appears committed to making it work.
In an appearance on “The Lowe Post” podcast, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin revealed that the Lakers are committed to Drummond, and interpreted his continued presence in the lineup as a signal that the center fits into their plans beyond this season.
“They’ve been so committed to him being the ceremonial starter,” McMenamin said. “And obviously he gets more than just ceremonial minutes. That seems to be something that is important to Drummond, which makes it important to the Lakers’ front office because they have signaled to everyone listening that this isn’t just a half a season buyout market rental. Andre Drummond is part of the future moving forward with this franchise.”
Drummond isn’t the main guy with the Lakers, which has been a significant adjustment for him. He averaged a modest 11.9 points per game in 21 regular season games to go with 10.2 rebounds per game as he adjusted to playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis. It sounds like whether he’s comfortable in this role or whether he wants to seek a bigger one elsewhere will actually matter significantly to the Lakers’ future.
Anthony Davis left the Los Angeles Lakers’ loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday with a groin injury, and it sounds like the ailment will keep him out for at least one more game.
Davis is unlikely to play in Game 5 against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports. He is considered day-to-day, but Charania notes that there is optimism about his status going forward.
Game 5 is extremely important for the Lakers, as Phoenix’s win on Sunday tied the series at 2-2. If the Lakers lose on Tuesday night, they’ll be forced to win both Game 6 and Game 7, which will be in Phoenix.
Davis, who has also been dealing with a knee injury, scored 34 points in each of the Lakers’ wins in the series. The team struggled when he was sidelined during the regular season, and his importance can’t be overstated.
LeBron James was battling an ankle injury entering the playoffs, but you would never have known that if you watched the first half of Sunday’s game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.
LeBron looked as explosive as ever early in Game 4. The highlight of the first half came when Alex Caruso threw a monster alley-oop to James off the glass. Check it out:
James also had an awesome drive where he spun around Cameron Johnson and finished with his right hand.
LeBron’s ankle injury caused him to miss more time during the regular season than any other injury in his career. He made it clear recently that he was bitter over the way it happened, but it obviously is not limiting his explosiveness.
The Los Angeles Clippers were suspected to have tanked at the end of the regular season explicitly to avoid facing the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. One NBA reporter thinks he has proof that is the case.
Chris Broussard, who is now a host at FOX Sports Radio but previously was an NBA reporter for ESPN, said on Wednesday that he had text confirmation saying the belief is true.
The Clippers, who won over 65 percent of their games, lost to Oklahoma City and Houston to end the regular season. The Thunder and Rockets had the two worst records in the Western Conference this season.
So was there any coincidence? By losing, the Clippers locked themselves into the No. 4 spot in the West. That ensured they would be in a different bracket from the Lakers and only face them in the conference finals.
The Clippers have denied the allegations. But they have some bigger problems anyway. They are down 2-0 to the Dallas Mavericks after losing the first two games of the series at home. The Lakers don’t even matter if your team can’t get out of the first round anyway.
If Game 1 is any indication, the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers are set to play an intense and physical Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Things got heated early in the fourth quarter after a LeBron James missed free throw. James and Chris Paul got tangled up going for the rebound, causing James to fall hard and seemingly hurt his shoulder. Lakers guard Alex Caruso and Suns guard Cameron Payne still went after the loose ball. Caruso got there first as the play was whistled for a foul on James, but Payne still essentially checked Caruso to the ground.
Caruso took exception and shoved Payne, leading Payne to throw the basketball at Caruso. Lakers center Montrezl Harrell promptly intervened, starting a scuffle between both teams.
Harrell came all the way in from the other end of the court to back up Caruso.
Payne received two technical fouls for his role in the skirmish and was ejected. Caruso and Harrell both received one technical. James, meanwhile, remained in the game despite the hard foul and the pain he was in.
Sunday’s game had already been physical and marked by a notable injury even before this. With the Suns looking like the better team, perhaps the situation will help fire the Lakers up going forward.
Top Western Conference teams have been put in the awkward situation of potentially dealing with the Los Angeles Lakers very early in the playoffs, leading to talk that some teams actively sought to avoid them.
Due to various injuries, the Lakers fell to the No. 7 seed in the West, though still had the chance to finish sixth on the final day of the season. With the likes of the Los Angeles Clippers seemingly giving up on pursuing the No. 3 seed, speculation grew that at least some teams were trying to avoid a first-round matchup with the defending champions.
In the end, the draw fell to the Phoenix Suns, who finished second in the West. Suns coach Monty Williams made clear that the team was not disappointed to face the Lakers, adding that anyone would be a tough draw at this point in the season.
The Suns have been given a lot of credit for how they handled their business. They rarely rested players, even down the stretch, and only sat their starters for the final regular season game once they’d locked in a top two seed. The Clippers were among the teams that did give guys more rest days, and they weren’t really sorry about it.
Still, Williams has a point. Sixth-seeded Portland has been one of the league’s hottest teams over the last month, and the first-place Utah Jazz could have a date with Stephen Curry if the Golden State Warriors win their play-in game Friday. There are no easy matchups on that side of the playoff bracket.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ actions on Friday night were so suspicious that many were left wondering whether they are tanking to avoid the Lakers in the playoffs.
The Clippers entered play on Friday as the No. 3 seed, leading the Denver Nuggets by a game in the standings. The Clippers were also playing the Houston Rockets, who have the worst record in the league.
And guess what? The Clippers gave Paul George and Kawhi Leonard the night off. Pat Beverley and Reggie Jackson were among their other players who did not play.
The Clippers lost the game 122-115. Meanwhile, Denver beat Detroit 104-91 to move into a tie with the Clippers for the No. 3 spot. The Nuggets hold the tiebreaker advantage over the the Clippers, putting LAC into the No. 4 spot.
So why is that significant? The Clippers now control their fate. If they lose on Sunday at Oklahoma City, they will end up in the No. 4 spot. Being in the No. 4 spot would ensure avoiding the Lakers in the first round.
The Lakers enter Saturday a half-game behind Portland for the No. 6 spot. Whether the Lakers end up in the No. 6 or No. 7 spot, whatever team is No. 4 would avoid the defending champions in the first round. They would also likely avoid the Lakers until the conference finals.
The Lakers may be dealing with injuries to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but teams still don’t want to face them.
LeBron James is once again sidelined with an ankle injury, and he has not been on the bench with the Los Angeles Lakers since he sat out the end of last Sunday’s game against the Toronto Raptors with lingering soreness. According to Lakers coach Frank Vogel, there is no medical reason for LeBron to be staying away from the team.
LeBron was not on the bench for the Lakers’ last two games against the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers. He is not expected to travel with the team to face the Trail Blazers in Portland on Friday night, either. When asked why after Thursday’s blowout loss to the Clippers, Vogel had an interesting response.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports that LeBron’s absences were considered excused to give him time to “stay off the ankle.” If that is the case, it’s unclear why Vogel didn’t say it.
LeBron is undoubtedly frustrated. He missed roughly six weeks with a sprained ankle before returning, only to experience soreness and have to shut it down again. He is likely doing everything he can to rest and rehab before the playoffs, which is why it was strange that Vogel didn’t just call the absence injury related.
We have already heard some bad news about LeBron’s health going forward, so the last thing the team needs is the media questioning whether the four-time MVP should be joining his teammates on the bench. Vogel’s remark created some awkwardness, at the very least.
The Los Angeles Lakers have tumbled down the Western Conference standings while they try to get healthy for the stretch run, but Anthony Davis believes rival teams would be making a mistake if they read too much into that.
Davis, who returned to the lineup last week after missing 30 games with heel and calf issues, sat down for an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols over the weekend. He was asked about the possibility of the Lakers having to take part in the play-in tournament, which would happen if they finished anywhere from the No.7 to No. 10 seed. L.A. is currently in fifth place and three games ahead of the seventh-place Portland Trail Blazers.
Davis said he isn’t overly concerned about any potential playoff opponent.
“No matter where we fall, we know we’re still capable of winning a championship,” he said. “Injuries played a part this season for us. We always say it just makes it a lot sweeter at the end to go through something like this.
“Put us up against anyone. I don’t think (anyone) wants to see us first round. I know the type of team that we have and I know what we can do. I think we’re capable of beating anyone in a seven-game series.”
You can hear the remarks at around the 2:15 mark below:
The Lakers are still the team to beat. It was impossible to judge them during a span in which Davis sat out 30 games, and now LeBron James is sidelined with an ankle injury. L.A. has a losing record since LeBron went down on March 20.
Assuming they are healthy, the Lakers could be even better off this year than they were in last year’s playoffs. They have added Andre Drummond for front-court depth, which should take pressure off Davis.
Davis admitted on Saturday that the Lakers are struggling with a specific issue, but that should work itself out if they get everyone back and healthy.
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