After missing the playoffs a fifth consecutive season, the Los Angeles Lakers expected matters to be drastically different. Signing LeBron James heightened expectations, even if he was paired with a young core instead of a slew of veterans and at least one more All-Star.
But a rash of injuries, and arguably roster construction, have led to the Lakers falling out of the playoff picture as the regular season winds to a close. Head coach Luke Walton will begin to monitor James’ minutes, suggesting the team is essentially waiving the white flag.
Players nonetheless have stressed the need to remain focused and still give necessary effort over the remaining 17 games. Barring a historic turn of events, the Lakers front office can expect to have a pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
President of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka may have taken a step forward in scouting prospects, as they were on hand at the Ohio Valley Conference tournament to watch Ja Morant and Dylan Windler, according to
Mike Organ of The Nashville Tennessean:
Johnson joined several NBA scouts, who were at the Ford Center already to see Murray State’s Ja Morant and Belmont’s Dylan Windler.
He sat courtside beneath one of the goals next to Belmont assistant Tyler Holloway.
Windler scored 32 points and hauled in 18 rebounds to lead Belmont to an 87-63 win over Austin Peay in the semifinals. One of his strong suits is three-point shooting, which can benefit James and is an area the Lakers have lacked in this season.
Meanwhile, Morant had 29 points in Murray State’s 76-74 win over Jacksonville State. Morant and Murray State will now face Windler and Belmont in the championship on Saturday (4 p.m. PT, ESPN2).