LeBron James Injured: Any Hope For Lakers To Make Playoffs?

LeBron James Injured: Any Hope For Lakers To Make Playoffs? article feature image
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Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: LeBron James

It's not often in the 76-year history of the Los Angeles Lakers that you can say this, but the Lakers really can't catch a break.

One day after the Lakers pulled off the biggest comeback of the season, storming back from down 27 to beat the Dallas Mavericks on the road, the Lakers received bad news about LeBron James and the foot injury he suffered in that game.

Sources: There's fear Lakers star LeBron James is likely to miss an extended period of time with his right foot injury. James suffered the injury in Sunday's win over Dallas, played through it, and belief is he will be sidelined an indefinite amount.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 28, 2023

James miraculously played through the injury that is now expected to require multiple opinions, sources said, and the Lakers are bracing for his absence to be multiple weeks. https://t.co/zuovQ2wVzc

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 28, 2023

Anytime you get the words "multiple opinions," that's a bad sign. Here's footage of the injury from Sunday's game:

James finished the game, somehow.

There are six weeks left in the NBA regular season, with the Lakers in 12th place in the Western Conference but just two games back in the loss column of sixth place.

This season without James, the Lakers are 5-9 straight up, 4-8-2 ATS. Without James but with Anthony Davis, the Lakers are 4-5 straight up, 3-5-1 ATS.

The Lakers have the fifth-easiest remaining schedule according to Tankathon.com's rankings. However, they have a -6.6 net rating without James.

If I adjust for the Lakers' roster additions at the deadline and then for James' absence, my projections have the Lakers finishing with 38 wins, and in 13th place in the Western Conference if James doesn't return.

James said at All-Star Weekend that the last 23 games of this season were the "most important" of his career and that he was going to figure out ways to be on the floor for every game.

"How do you view the 23 remaining games in the Lakers season?"

LeBron: "It's 23 of the most important games of my career for a regular season."

(via @TomerAzarly, @ClutchPointsApp)

pic.twitter.com/mvmzpthNRd

— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) February 19, 2023

The Lakers' trade deadline reinforcements might provide some help in buffeting the loss, but ultimately, a major change brought about in the trades was in acquiring players to better fit around James.

D'Angelo Russell is also dealing with an ankle sprain and is doubtful for Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. Without Russell, the Lakers are dreadfully low on ballhandlers, playmakers and shot creators.

Odds moved in wake of the news on Monday, The Lakers moved from -250 to miss the playoffs after All-Star Break to -320 in the wake of the injury news.

If the Lakers do fall away from the race, the biggest beneficiary might be the Jazz. Utah plays the Lakers twice in the final 20 games of the season, and already holds the No. 8 seed. Holding a top-two spot in the play-in gives you two chances to make the playoffs and provides homecourt in a second game if you lose the 7-8 matchup.

The Grizzlies benefit more immediately, as they face the Lakers twice in the next week; the Grizzlies are looking to fend off the Kings for the No. 2 seed with an outside chance of trying to catch Denver for the No. 1 seed in the West. (Denver and Memphis play in a huge game Friday night in Denver with the tiebreaker on the line.)

The Lakers control their own destiny, but given Davis' spotty injury history, their lack of playmakers with Russell out, and the importance of James overall, the Lakers' hopes of a miracle playoff run look to be in dire straits heading into the final stretch of the season.

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