The Los Angeles Lakers have now lost three games in a row, without LeBron James in the lineup, falling 128-111 to the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.
After coming out of the All-Star break on a 4-0 run without Anthony Davis, who is still sidelined with a calf strain, the Lakers suffered defeats to the Atlanta Hawks, Phoenix Suns and Pelicans with James out of the lineup and are facing the possibility of the 36-year-old being sidelined for up to a month, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said.
"They're still evaluating that high-ankle sprain, but I'm told that the Lakers are preparing for the possibility they could be without LeBron James for three weeks, even a month," he said.
"That's a normal time frame for recovery for that injury, but they're still firming up a timeline. James has shown in his career an incredible ability to recover quickly from injury and play through injury, but this one's not going to be so easy, and the Lakers, again, are preparing for the possibility this is going to be weeks, not days."
LeBron James tweaked his right ankle then returned to the game briefly before heading to the locker room.- Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) March 20, 2021
Hoping for the best for LeBron. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/ySToneJwhC
Prior to the injury, James was among the MVP frontrunners, averaging 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 33.9 minutes per game in 41 games.
With their star duo in the lineup, the Lakers remain a championship contender, however, as it stands, the Lakers are fourth in the Western Conference at 28-16, just 4.0 games back of the no. 1 seed Utah Jazz and 4.0 games out of the play-in tournament seedings, such is the logjam in the standings.
The Lakers have also been without Marc Gasol, who missed the past nine games due to the NBA health and safety protocols and is still working on his conditioning for the stretch run of the season.
With the NBA trade deadline approaching on Thursday, the Lakers have been rumoured to be in search of reinforcements for their quest to win back-to-back championships, but according to Wojnarowski, they'll be approaching the deadline looking for long-term solutions to complement their two stars, who they expect to be healthy and ready to go for the post-seadson.
"The Lakers are preparing to go into the trade deadline looking more long-term with this team, and trying to make sure that they can plug some holes for when they do have a healthy LeBron James and Anthony Davis back for the playoffs," Wojnarowski added.
"I think for them the buyout market after the trade deadline is where they could really impact, because then you're adding players without having to lose anyone in a trade or have to trade out assets. Certainly, Andre Drummond remains a real big target for the Lakers if he's bought out."
Drummond has been widely linked with the Lakers if he receives a buyout, with the Lakers the favorites to sign him once he clears waivers, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst as they look to add more size, rebounding and rim protection to complement their existing frontcourt of Davis, Gasol, Montrezl Harrell and Markieff Morris.
Regardless of their playoff seeding, no team wants to see the Lakers in the first round of the post-season, but they can ill-afford to keep dropping games as they wait for their roster to return to full health.
In their next 10 games, they face some tough opponents in the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, LA Clippers, Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets, with several teams behind them in the standings looking to make their move in the second half of the season, including the Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks.
The race for playoff seeding in the West is going to come down to the wire and Thursday's deadline could prove pivotal in getting the Lakers the reinforcements they need to stay afloat till James and Davis get back.
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