It has been a road trip of uncertainty for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers as each hour it feels as though a new player is being added to or taken out of the league’s health and safety protocols. It left them extremely shorthanded against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
Among the players who could not play were Austin Reaves, Avery Bradley, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn and Dwight Howard. Meanwhile, the Lakers were expected to be without Russell Westbrook, but he tested out of protocols just hours before the game.
James, who has already had a short bout with the NBA’s protocols this season, is struggling like everyone else in dealing with the constant changes in availability. He discussed staying focused amid a trying time following an ugly loss to the Timberwolves.
“Just trying to maintain focus throughout it all,” James said. “Obviously it’s been a difficult and challenging 36 hours, 24 hours, whatever it’s been, for our ballclub. So we’re just trying to have the next man up mentality, obviously we had a lot of guys in the rotation tonight that we haven’t played with this year.
“But despite that, we had a good opportunity in the third quarter down three and we just let it go again. Give credit where credit is due, Minnesota had a hell of a game tonight and we just have to do better on Sunday.”
The Lakers star is hopeful that these challenging times are going to reveal positive things about the team moving forward. “Obviously each year has its own challenges and this year is the Covid cases once again. Positives, false positives, inconclusives, you don’t know what to make of it.
“Obviously you wish for the best for everyone and obviously it just hurt our team over the last few days in having Dwight, Malik, Avery, it was possible that Russ was gonna be out. We had Austin in shootaround this morning and then we found out that he’s not in, so it’s just like a revolving door of what-ifs so far. Hopefully we get past it soon and we can really get to who we are as a team, what we are capable of, who we’re on the floor with and not having guys in and out so much.”
L.A. now turns their focus to the Chicago Bulls, who blew the Lakers out when they last played at Staples Center. Both teams are going through COVID outbreaks, meaning it’s impossible to predict who will and won’t be available.
Same goes for the Lakers’ Christmas Day game against the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant and James Harden are currently both in the health and safety protocols. We’ll see who both teams have available by the time that game comes around.
Regardless, the Lakers have an opportunity to win games against teams that are just as battered as they are. With no advantages either way, James and the Lakers can step up and make things happen for themselves.
James hoping for the best with Anthony Davis
As if the health and safety protocols weren’t bad enough, the Lakers may have lost Anthony Davis for an undetermined amount of time as he suffered a knee injury against the Timberwolves. Early tests showed no structural damage, but additional MRI’s are being done.
“My concern is always for his health,” James said. “You always hope for the best for your teammates, but especially a guy like AD. So you wish for the best, but it’s in the man above’s hands.”
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