The Los Angeles Lakers are entering a critical time in their schedule after the All-Star break. With just 23 games remaining in the regular season, the Lakers are five games under .500 (27-32) and have a seven-game stretch where they’ll play all Western Conference foes, starting with the Golden State Warriors, Thursday night. First-year head coach Darvin Ham spoke on Wednesday about the team’s goal and what they’re striving for in this stretch run.
“Yeah, the goal is for us to come out and try to be the best version of ourselves each game, but definitely, if we can go and secure a spot, that is our goal right there,” Ham said. “If we fall into a play-in situation, so be it. But our No. 1 goal is to go secure a spot [and] not just throw games off here or there [and] just wish for a play-in. We want to go secure a spot.”
Over the next seven games, L.A. will play Golden State twice, Dallas, Memphis twice, Oklahoma City, and Minnesota. All these teams are currently ahead of the Lakers in the standings. Right now, Los Angeles is two games out of the last play-in spot occupied by the Thunder. The Lakers and Thunder square off on March 1 in OKC, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is looking for some payback on LeBron James after he blocked his dunk attempt in the All-Star game.
It’s good to hear Ham keep it real in his expectation for this Lakers squad, but putting this plan into motion is much easier said than done. James has played in one game since setting the new all-time scoring record over two weeks ago. It’s funny how he participated in that game just before the All-Star break against New Orleans. If you buy this hurt ankle crap, more power to you. But it obviously wasn’t bad enough that he couldn’t have played in those games immediately following his passing of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the record books.
Need more than LeBron
At this point, Ham can’t count on LeBron to play every game, whether injured or not, and we’ve never really been able to rely on the health of Anthony Davis. All the trade deadline moves in the world won’t amount to anything without those two in the lineup. Bringing D’Angelo Russell back to L.A. will help as long as there aren’t any camera phones around him in the locker room. The addition of Russell is a nice pickup and creates a terrific third option who knocks down open shots. But without Bron and AD on the floor consistently, the odds of the Lakers making a playoff push are slim.
Of course, every team would like to avoid the one-game scenario of the play-in, but realistically this is the best bet for LA. James is still great when he’s out there but needs more help than ever before, and rightfully so. It’s tough though when the main guy tasked with helping rarely plays. The odds of the Lakers winning enough games to jump into the top six in the west are about as good as Stephen A. Smith not saying something egregious the next time he’s on air. Or SAS being invited to a Rihanna fan party. It’s not happening.
Los Angeles needs to win at least five of the next seven games to make up any significant ground in the standings. Their stars need to play. This team isn’t deep enough to miss either star for a considerable amount of time, as we’ve seen since they won the bubble championship in 2020. Good luck, Lakers. You’re certainly going to need it.