The Lakers aren’t technically out of playoff contention yet, but after falling two games (and a tiebreaker) behind San Antonio in the Western Conference standings on Sunday, their odds of claiming a spot in the play-in tournament are increasingly slim — in fact, the Lakers could be officially eliminated as soon as Tuesday if they lose in Phoenix and the Spurs win in Denver.
Following Sunday’s loss, Anthony Davis sounded like someone who recognized that L.A.’s season is all but over, as he reflected on “what could have been” if the team had been healthier.
“I think the biggest thing that I think about personally is what we could have been, had we stayed healthy all year,” Davis said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “What could we have been. … Guys feel like, ‘OK, what could we have been if I was healthy all year, [LeBron James] was healthy, [Kendrick] Nunn was healthy.’ You think about those things. We put this team together and it looked good on paper, but we haven’t had a chance to reach that potential with guys in and out of the lineup.”
Davis, who has only played in half of the Lakers’ 78 games so far this season, has been bothered throughout his career by injuries, but he bristled at the perception that he’s fragile, telling Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times that he hasn’t been sidelined due to “little ticky-tack injuries.”
“This is what I’ve learned about injuries,” Davis said. “Last year when I wasn’t playing, people were saying, ‘AD’s giving up on his team. It’s the playoffs. AD has to play. He’s got to play.’ And when I went out there to play, got hurt again, they said, ‘Who was his trainer? Who let him play?’
“So, what the [expletive] do you want me to do? When I play, it’s a problem. It’s a problem when I don’t play. At the end of the day, I’ve got to do what’s best for me and how my body feels. And we go from there. I’m not worried about who’s saying what or who thinks this about me because none of them have stepped on the floor and played. And the ones that did play, they should understand.”
Here’s more on the Lakers:
- A source familiar with James’ status told Dave McMenamin of ESPN that the star forward is “unlikely” to play on Tuesday vs. Phoenix. However, according to McMenamin, the source said there’s still a chance that could change if LeBron’s ankle improves more than expected by tomorrow night.
- Jovan Buha of The Athletic and his colleague John Hollinger both pushed back against the idea that injuries have been the primary cause of the Lakers’ disappointing season. Buha observed that even in games when Davis and James played, the team was just 11-11, while Hollinger said the team’s offseason plan needs to be better than simply running it back and hoping its two superstars stay healthy in 2022-23.
- Appearing on ESPN’s Get Up and First Take on Monday, former Lakers president Magic Johnson criticized the club for not acquiring DeMar DeRozan last offseason instead of Russell Westbrook (link via Jenna Lemoncelli of The New York Post). While that’s not an unreasonable take, given that DeRozan had interest in playing for his hometown team, Johnson’s assertion that the Lakers could’ve had DeRozan, Buddy Hield, Alex Caruso, and
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope instead of Westbrook is a fantasy that doesn’t pass muster. Unless DeRozan had been willing to sign for the taxpayer mid-level exception (which wasn’t viewed as a viable option at the time), L.A. would’ve become hard-capped by acquiring him and would have had no way of carrying all those contracts in addition to James’ and Davis’ maximum salaries. Acquiring both DeRozan and Hield without giving up Caldwell-Pope also likely wouldn’t have been possible due to salary-matching rules.