NBA

Push for playoffs extra than simply speak for LeBron, Lakers

“Stranger issues have occurred, however it will be bizarre to have the playoffs and never have him within the playoffs,” stated Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “Like, bizarre.”

The LA Clippers, presently the No. eight seed, have dwindling motivation and talent to make the playoffs. They traded their greatest participant (Tobias Harris) earlier this month to create cap room for a summer time free-agent run. In the event that they make the playoffs, their No. 1 choose goes to the Celtics. In the event that they fall into the lottery, they maintain it.

Extra realistically, that is in regards to the Lakers competing down the stretch towards the energized and hungry Sacramento Kings. They haven’t made the playoffs in 13 seasons and don’t have a No. 1 choose within the 2019 draft. The Lakers are additionally preventing the proud San Antonio Spurs, who haven’t missed the playoffs since coach Gregg Popovich’s first season.

 

Within the stretch run, a number of key storylines will stand out.

Following their Christmas Day win in Oakland, the Lakers had been No. four within the West. However the season was thrown for a loop with LeBron’s groin injury-induced absence and different Lakers accidents and suspensions. The Lakers nonetheless aren’t at full power till Lonzo Ball recovers from his ankle sprain. That ought to come quickly, though he has but to follow.

LeBron has made a behavior of carrying lesser groups to the playoffs and past, though he did that within the East with out lacking many video games. That is one other, completely different hill to climb.

“I’m trying ahead to the second half of the season, trying ahead to seeing what we are able to do to get again into this playoff race,” James stated after the All-Star Recreation. “That’s my mindset. That’s the one factor that’s going to occur in my psychological area for these subsequent two months, just about how I can get this workforce taking part in the kind of degree of basketball we had been taking part in earlier than my harm.”

Earlier than the season went sideways, the Lakers had been certainly intriguing. LeBron defied age as soon as once more and put up Kia MVP-like numbers, together with a dependable contact on Three-pointers. JaVale McGee was a pleasantly stunning supply of offense, Rajon Rondo was effectively regular and the younger core of Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma had their moments.

On the All-Star break, LeBron and Rondo had simply returned, Ball was harm, McGee was the No. 2 heart (behind the now-departed Ivica Zubac), Ingram was an enigma and Kuzma was rising as a stable No. 2 scorer. And naturally, the Davis drama weighed on the locker room.

“All I do know,” Kuzma stated, “is after we had been wholesome, we gained. We had been advantageous. The aim is to get again to that. Let’s get a wholesome workforce after which we’ll see. I’m assured in what we are able to do.”

 

Which West groups may trigger Golden State bother within the playoffs?

This was at all times designated as an exploratory season for the Lakers with LeBron. Getting into the season, that they had younger gamers with out playoff expertise. They’d veterans on one-year contracts serving as bridge-gap gamers so the Lakers can maintain their wage cap versatile for 2019. In a way, there was by no means any false hopes by administration of constructing the Warriors sweat.

However making the playoffs? That was anticipated.

> The West:  Who can cope with Warriors?

“It was our aim at the start of the season and nonetheless our aim,” LeBron stated.

In the event that they do, the Lakers would possibly make it attention-grabbing within the first spherical in the event that they see, for instance, the inexperienced Denver Nuggets (or some other non-Warriors workforce).

In the event that they don’t, then it’s a humiliation for the Lakers and setback for LeBron. It should gas the notion that he wants tons of assist to win something of significance within the extra aggressive West (though loads of participant motion this summer time may shift the panorama drastically).

With the commerce deadline handed and Davis nonetheless in New Orleans, LeBron should make do with what he has. And to listen to him, he has a lot.

“I’m all about being uncomfortable,” James stated. “I like being uncomfortable, I get pleasure from being counted out. Look, we gotta win video games. … Go on the market and do your job. Management what you possibly can management and what you possibly can’t management don’t fear about.”

* * *

Shaun Powell has coated the NBA for greater than 25 years. You possibly can e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and observe him on Twitter.

The views on this web page don’t essentially replicate the views of the NBA, its golf equipment or Turner Broadcasting. 


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