The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t been a top team in the Western Conference all season, but early on that was to be expected. While the Lakers added superstar LeBron James in free agency, it was bound to take time for the team to gel and begin to hit their stride. Unfortunately, when they did begin to mesh, the continued growth was derailed by an injury to the future Hall-of-Famer.
James suffered a groin injury against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, missing 17 straight games to follow. But while the Lakers’ current playoff outlook is bleak, things looked far different before that setback. So much so, that the team was actually beginning to take steps towards being a team opponents would want to avoid in the playoffs.
Through the first 34 games before LeBron’s injury, the Lakers posted a 20-14 record, which is even more impressive considering they were 0-3 to start and 3-5 in October.
Lakers Record Without LeBron James Unravels Season
The Lakers posted a 6-11 record with James out of the lineup, and while a decline was bound to happen, the timing of it couldn’t have been worse. Sure, the team suffered their bumps in the road along the way, dropping a few very winnable games even before James was sidelined. But they kept their head above water and through the month of November reeled off a 10-4 record with roughly six wins coming against potential playoff teams.
When James returned from his absence, the Lakers sat at 26-25 and went from being a mid-range playoff team to battling for a spot in the postseason. Since that point, the team has gone 4-9, with one of those games coming without the star forward. The Lakers fell apart after the injury, and since Christmas, they’ve now tallied a mark of 10-20 to fall 5.5 games back of the eighth and final playoff spot with virtually no room for error.
Impact of Anthony Davis Trade Talks
While the Lakers’ record without their star in the lineup is telling and left them in a hole, that wasn’t the only reason for the team’s demise. The Anthony Davis trade talks left a mark on the young core of the Lakers, whether you want to believe it or not.
It’s apparent James and the Lakers front office were willing to go all-in on the New Orleans Pelicans star. They even went as far as offering reported deals which included virtually every young star on the roster. And when that deal fell through at the NBA trade deadline, it created a strange situation. In short, the Lakers were left with LeBron, a handful of veterans and a young core who had just seen their names thrown around trade rumors for multiple weeks.
Two days before the February 7 trade deadline, the Lakers lost by 42 to the Indiana Pacers. They showed a glimmer of hope during a 129-128 win against the Boston Celtics hours after the deadline passed but were saved by a Rajon Rondo game-winner against his former team. Since that point, the Lakers have dropped seven of nine games and virtually watched their playoff chances fly out the window.
The start of the Lakers’ downfall this season began with James’ injury, and it was pushed to the brink by the handling of trade talks for Davis. Maybe the conversations would have been handled differently if the Lakers weren’t close to missing the playoffs, even though the team surely still would have gone after Davis. We’ll never know, but what we do know is that the outlook right now is ugly, and it’s not showing signs of turning.