LeBron James’s criticism of the play-in tournament concept remains a hot topic among the NBA community. And the whining might continue — especially since the 36-year-old superstar won’t be out there to help keep the Lakers out of the play-in spot.
Lakers star LeBron James is expected to miss back-to back games on Thursday (Clippers) and Friday (Blazers) to rest his right ankle, sources tell ESPN. James will proceed cautiously with ankle injury as playoffs approach.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 4, 2021
The Lakers (37-28) sit 6th in the West after the Mavericks jumped over them in the standings with yesterday’s win against the Wizards. Dallas also owns the tiebreaker, in case of both teams finishing the season with the same records.
The purple and gold are a game ahead of the seventh-seeded Trail Blazers and 4.5 games ahead of the 8th seeded Warriors. Therefore, the game against Portland on Friday is a must-win if LA wants to maintain control and avoid landing anywhere between the No.7 and No.10 in the West. Not having LeBron in the lineup will make their job a lot harder. And it might even get worse than that.
It is possible James could miss more games, sources said, as he works through discomfort in the ankle that kept him out six weeks until a two-game return that saw home losses to Toronto and Sacramento over the weekend.Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN
“James has experienced some trouble making hard cuts and exploding since his return from six weeks on the sideline with the injury,” Wojnarowski reported. “James and the Lakers will continue to evaluate the injury and will proceed cautiously.”
LeBron already said he doesn’t believe he’ll ever get back to 100%. With 7 games left in the regular season, the Lakers’ No.1 priority is to make sure James is as close to 100% as possible. Even if it means sitting him out until the playoffs – or the play-in tournament – so be it.
It don’t matter where we land. That’s my mindset.LeBron James, LA Times
After the Clippers and the Blazers, the rest of the Lakers’ schedule includes games against the Suns, Knicks, Rockets, Pacers, and Pelicans. LeBron will play in five of those games at most, depending on his ankle. But even without him, Anthony Davis and the best defense in basketball should be enough for the Lakers to at least secure the play-in spot.
If and when that happens, assuming LeBron is healthy, the Lakers will still have a chance. As long as AD and LBJ are on the roster, they have a chance. So don’t write them off just yet.