The Los Angeles Lakers are entering the latter half of a grueling seven-game road trip that has seen some lights-out shooting be met with tough losses the following game in a frantic, oscillating experience.
The road trip is just a portion of a broader grueling schedule the Lakers are battling in order to remain a playoff team in the revered Western Conference where teams can’t afford to slip up and make mistakes.
The schedule already posed a significant challenge without Anthony Davis as he is out with a calf injury, but LeBron James joined Davis on the sidelines to observe, rather than lead, the Lakers who desperately need his presence.
However, though James can’t control the pace of the game, he’s recently rejoined the team on the road trip to help off the bench. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel explained the importance of the star’s company.
“Of course. Honestly, it really is uplifting,” Vogel said. “He’s got a great impact on our group, on our guys’ energy and things we’re doing each day. Good to have him arguing with the refs with me. An extra added weapon in these situations (laughs). It’s just great to have him around.”
Not having James in the lineup is just a piece of the broken puzzle the Lakers have struggled to assemble this season.
Davis has been out since mid-February, Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol missed a chunk of games because of health and safety protocols and players like Alex Caruso, Wesley Matthews and newly signed center Andre Drummond all fluctuated between missed games throughout the season.
The Lakers also recently added Kyle Kuzma’s name to the already sizeable list, as the forward is dealing with a calf strain.
Vogel said the toughest task the Lakers have dealt with this season is adjusting to whatever situation may emerge, and L.A. has been hapless in that regard.
“The biggest challenge has been just the adaptability that has been necessary with our group,” Vogel said. “We knew it was going to be that kind of season with the COVID protocols. Adapt on the fly all season long and then it has been added with the onslaught of injuries to key guys.”
Despite the uphill battles the Lakers have climbed, Vogel said the team has remained as optimistic as possible, citing how a fresh James and Davis will significantly boost the team’s morale when they return.
“Those have been great challenges, but we’re keeping a positive mental attitude with what we’re enduring and there’s a silver lining with what is happening with us right now with these guys getting extended minutes to get rhythm and comfortable in our system while LeBron [James] and AD are able to come back healthy will be mentally fresh and rested, so there’s some positives to what we’re going through,” Vogel said.
“It’s not fun in the moment, but we’re definitely encouraged about what we’re going to be down the stretch and into the playoffs.”
Vogel ‘proud’ of Lakers’ effort in loss to Heat
An already short-handed squad decimated further, as Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker didn’t play against the Miami Heat. Kuzma, as aforementioned, sat out because of a leg injury. The NBA handed Horton-Tucker a one-game suspension for his role in the first-quarter altercation against the Toronto Raptors.
Though the Lakers lost, they couldn’t do much but compete as hard as possible against a potential playoff team in Miami, who have gotten healthier as of late.
Vogel said he’s ‘proud’ of how the Lakers fought given the limited number of players available at his disposal.
“Very proud of the effort, fight and belief that we had in one another that we could beat this team, a team that was in the Finals, in their building,” Vogel said.
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