Many wondered how far the Los Angeles Lakers would fall in the Western Conference standings after LeBron James joined Anthony Davis on the sidelines for an extended period of time due to injury.
Although they got off to a rough start, the Lakers have actually managed to go 7-8 in the 15 games since the four-time NBA champion twisted his ankle on March 30. The reigning NBA champions slipped down to fifth in the West with a two-game advantage over the Portland Trail Blazers sitting in sixth.
The Lakers’ role players worked hard to ensure the fallout wouldn’t set the team too far back before its All-Stars returned. That seemed particularly tricky considering other teammates missed games due to minor injuries along the way as well. Falling into the bottom-seeded spots could potentially have a disastrous impact on L.A.’s quest to defend the title.
This season, the seventh and eighth seeds will take part in a two-stage play-in tournament adding extra games to the already jam-packed calendar.
But Markieff Morris said the Lakers never worried about the dangers of the play-in games — and won’t now as James and Davis are nearing their returns. “I don’t even know what the date is for that, so if it’s next month, that won’t involve us,” he said.
“We’re getting healthy at the right time, this is perfect for us, man. With this crazy season with all these games, back-to-back nights, and days off in between, without our two best players we’ve held it down for the most part. Now we get them back fully healthy and ready to make a run.”
The forward claimed L.A.’s perseverance served as proof for the team’s championship DNA. “We’ve got championship players here,” he said. “We got a lot of guys from the team last year that won the championship. With that DNA, we just use it every game.
“Some games we’re going to lose. The fact of the matter is we continue to play hard and we know what’s coming as far as the playoffs. From here on out everything counts.”
Morris has stepped up in James and Davis’ absence, averaging 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds since the Lakers lost both All-Stars to injuries.
Vogel unsure whether 2020-21 season brought more injuries
The NBA has seen plenty of injuries, some of them season-ending, since the start of the 2020-21 season. It brought back the concerns over the players’ well-being that had emerged before the end of an extremely short offseason back in December.
But head coach Frank Vogel hedged around the topic of the suspicious number of injuries in the league this year “That’s something that people are speculating on because of the shorter condensed season,” he said.
“I do think that there wasn’t really any other way,” he added.
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