With 13 regular-season games remaining, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves embroiled in a fierce battle to qualify for the postseason.
Currently sitting 10th in the Western Conference, Los Angeles is two games out of the sixth seed, which would guarantee immediate entry to the playoffs, and one game ahead of the 11th-seeded Utah Jazz, who, if the season ended today, would be booking an early vacation.
According to Fox Sports analyst Nick Wright, the Lakers boast a favorable schedule and should have no issues making it into the playoffs, where he expects them to embark on a deep run.
“The Lakers, I don’t think they have to get to the six line. I think they still can, but the Warriors winning in OT, plus their loss, makes it a hell of a lot harder…Let’s just assume that LeBron is back in April, I look at that (their schedule), and I say, ‘they’re playing two tough teams until April’…I do think they are more than viable to go on a deep run,” Wright said.
The Lakers have been performing better since the trade deadline and, currently look like a team capable of making some noise in the postseason if they can qualify.
Multiple Teams Could Want LeBron James
According to a Western Conference Executive who spoke with Heavy on Sports NBA Insider Sean Deveney under the condition of anonymity, there are four teams who could emerge as suitors for LeBron James if he handed in a trade request this summer. Those teams are the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, and Dallas Mavericks.
“It is hard to imagine him going anywhere except Cleveland if the Cavs could make that happen without giving up too many assets,” the executive said, “Miami would have to be in the mix, too, and maybe a darkhorse – the Knicks and Mavericks. He has always wanted to play with those teams, with those players. He has an interest in Luka [Doncic] for sure.”
LeBron has been playing at an elite level this season, averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game while shooting 50.1% from the field and 30.8% from deep, although he is currently sidelined due to injury.
D’Angelo Russell Wants to Remain With The Lakers
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, recently acquired point guard D’Angelo Russell wants to stay with the team beyond his current contract, which is set to expire at the end of the season.
“D’Angelo Russell very much wanted a second chance in LA with the Lakers and you’ve seen the impact he made coming back against Toronto the other night, playing great in a win, and again tonight,” Wojnarowski said on March 12 (h/t RealGM). “He wants to be the point guard of the future for this organization. He’ll be a free agent this summer.”
The Lakers acquired Russell at the February 9 trade deadline as part of a three-team deal that saw Russell Westbrook depart for the Utah Jazz before eventually being bought out of his deal. Los Angeles will be hoping to tie Russell down to a new deal following an impressive start to his second spell with the purple and gold.