In a game against the Atlanta Hawks on Mar. 20th, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James suffered a high ankle sprain at the beginning of the second quarter. James collided with Atlanta’s Solomon Hill in an attempt to get a loose ball, which caused LeBron to fall, landing awkwardly on his ankle. He then reached out and grabbed it in obvious pain. Eventually, LeBron resumed playing for another possession by quickly scoring a three-pointer. The Lakers then called a timeout, where LeBron headed back to the locker room.
The Lakers are now without their two superstar players, LeBron and Anthony Davis, for at least two more weeks. LeBron has not played a game since Mar. 20th, and the team has not disclosed an official timeframe for his return. Davis last played on Feb. 14th and has been out due to a calf strain. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Davis’s reasonable return could be in around two weeks while LeBron is “on track” to return in three weeks. Still, with a return from injury, it is also possible that he will be on a limited playing time for the first couple of games.
To try and boost their roster without their stars, the Lakers acquired Andre Drummond, after he was bought out from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Drummond’s salary of almost $28 million made it difficult for the Cavaliers to find a trade partner; this led to the team buying him out, which allowed Drummond to sign to whichever team he wanted to. On the Drummond signing, Lakers vice-president of operations Rob Pelinka said, “We feel extremely fortunate to add a player of his caliber and magnitude to our core group at this stage of our journey to defend the NBA title.”
Even with their injuries, the Lakers are +300 favorites to win the NBA Finals, according to VegasInsider. That places them second in the league, trailing only their Eastern Conference counterpart, the Brooklyn Nets, as they sit as +250 favorites.
However, the Lakers should still be concerned with the now. As of writing this, the Lakers have gone 12-14 without Davis and 5-7 without LeBron. Before both of them went down, the Lakers held onto the second seed in the Western Conference. Now, they’re only 1.5 games above the sixth seeded Portland Trail Blazers.
With eighteen games remaining on their schedule, it is crucial for the Lakers without their star players to finish the season strong to get a better playoff seeding. Home court advantage typically plays a big part in the playoffs, and the lower the Lakers fall in the standings the harder the opponents they’ll have to face early. Even if they do make it out of the West, their lower seeding would likely cause them to lose home court advantage depending on who wins the East.
Although the Lakers have not released an official update on their status, LeBron recently posted on his Instagram a picture of him and Anthony Davis courtside spectating the game against the Miami Heat with the caption, “The weatherman says the weather is changing soon and it predicts a thunderstorm ⛈ ☔️ is coming. Folks prepare and take the proper caution ⚠️ ⛔️ measures to stay safe.” This post caused speculation among the media and fans that James could be returning sooner than expected.
While that is still in the air, there’s a few things that are not in doubt. Those being that the Lakers need to stay afloat now and that they have to hope and pray their superstars don’t have any more bumps in the road. Defending their NBA Championship depends on it.