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Frank Vogel says Lakers struggling with midseason fatigue

LOS ANGELES — The All-Star break begins March 5. It’s a good bet that several Lakers have the date circled on their calendars.

“Guys are definitely excited that All-Star break is coming up,” veteran Jared Dudley said, with a chuckle. “I would be lying if I didn’t say that guys are looking forward to that.”

Between a short offseason, a stretch that has seen two of the Lakers’ top players unavailable and overtime results that have stretched workloads to the limit, the team is feeling the strain near the season’s midway point.

LeBron James has openly claimed “I don’t get tired,” and Kyle Kuzma has said he’s fresh from not playing a lot of minutes early in the season. But Coach Frank Vogel acknowledged what his players have so far largely been unwilling to admit: They’re tired. And it might partly explain the shooting slump the Lakers have been in recently.

“I think playing the three straight overtime games sort of – I think there was a little fatigue after that with our guys and they wouldn’t admit it,” Vogel said. “They feel good and everything. But some of this shooting struggle comes after that unique situation in the schedule.”

The return of starting point guard Dennis Schröder, who is expected to rejoin the lineup after Wednesday’s game against the Utah Jazz after quarantining due to COVID-19 protocols, would help. Vogel said Monday that there was “no change” to his status, which in this case is an encouraging sign.

Anthony Davis is also coming along in his rehab from a right Achilles strain. Vogel said he couldn’t give much insight into Davis’ physical activities except that the All-NBA big man is cleared to work out his upper body and not yet cleared to run up and down the court.

Until one or both make it back, the Lakers know they have a smaller margin for error on both ends of the court. Dudley noted that the Lakers still have the No. 1 defense in the league, and feel they have enough firepower on offense to win more games than they have lately.

Dudley said he’s heard from visiting players that Staples Center is one of the most difficult venues to play in without fans, which he said explains some of the difference between how the Lakers have played worse at home than on the road.

He also compared the dog days the Lakers are stuck in to the opening games of the NBA bubble last summer in Orlando, when the team struggled in the final eight “seeding games” of the regular season.

“Very similar, and that’s how I take this, to when we first got to the bubble, and we had those eight games going into the bubble, and how we just looked terrible,” he said. “And we’re trying to find ourselves an identity.”

There is an idea that the Lakers’ stretch without Davis could help make or break the MVP case for James, who has yet to miss a game this season. Dudley said it’s apparent to anyone watching how valuable James is to the Lakers, but behind the scenes, the 36-year-old four-time league MVP is also lifting the team’s energy with how he prepares for games.

“It’s phenomenal for someone for that many games to basically have the most energy on the team,” Dudley said. “I mean, like, I can hear the music behind me, lifting weights beforehand, getting in three hours before and stretching and coming out and leading this team.”

LIONEL HOLLINS MISSES GAME, WILL MISS UTAH TRIP

The Lakers were down an assistant coach on Monday night, and they’re expected to be down again on Wednesday. Lionel Hollins missed the game against the Wizards for personal reasons, according to a Lakers spokeswoman. He will not travel with the team for their Wednesday trip to Utah.

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