The Los Angeles Lakers’ playoff chances seemingly took a significant hit with the latest injuries to superstar forward LeBron James and guard D’Angelo Russell. But one NBA legend offered some optimism about the Lakers’ postseason hopes.
The Lakers have been frustrated by injuries, as James is out for the foreseeable future with a foot injury, while Russell is set to miss his fourth straight game because of a sprained ankle.
Yet future Hall of Famer Vince Carter said on ESPN’s “Get Up” on Thursday that star big man Anthony Davis can help keep the Lakers afloat until James returns.
“It’s up to AD to really lead this team until further notice,” Carter said on ESPN. “We don’t know until we know about LeBron. So they’re gonna have to get it done.”
Davis has been dealing with a right foot stress injury but he may still be available as soon as Friday for Darvin Ham’s squad.
The Lakers announced Thursday afternoon that James will be re-evaluated in three weeks. James could miss close to a month, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. James could remain sidelined for almost the remainder of the regular season.
In Sunday’s comeback win over the Dallas Mavericks, James aggravated a foot injury that had been bothering him for some time. James’ injury timeline puts him on track to miss at least 12 straight games.
The Lakers have gone 1-1 during James’ latest absence. After losing to the Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles upset the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night, 123-117. The win came without James and Russell, as well as Davis, who was resting because it was the second night of a back-to-back.
The win elevated the Lakers to No. 11 in the Western Conference standings. Los Angeles is only one game behind the No. 9 seed Utah Jazz and the No. 10 seed New Orleans Pelicans.
The Lakers are just 1.5 games behind the No. 8 seed Minnesota Timberwolves and two games behind the No. 7 seed Dallas Mavericks. As the No. 8 or No. 7 seed, the Lakers would have two chances to win one play-in game for a playoff berth. As the No. 9 or No. 10 seed, the Lakers would need to go 2-0 in the play-in tournament to clinch a postseason spot.
“If they’re able to hold on, anything can happen when you have LeBron James in your lineup,” Carter said. “LeBron can get you a win to move forward.”
Only two teams have an easier remaining schedule than Los Angeles, based on opponents’ winning percentage. Of their 19 remaining games, 12 are at home. One of Los Angeles’ road games is against the Houston Rockets, which are tanking with the worst record in the league. Another road game will take place in the Lakers’ home arena against the Clippers.
Davis can carry a team when he’s playing his best. The eight-time All-Star averaged 30.3 points on 66.1% shooting in eight December games before getting hurt. Davis had a nine-game stretch from Nov. 13 through Dec. 4 during which he had at least 25 points and 10 rebounds in every single contest.
The Lakers have relied on others in the absence of their stars. Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley have made positive contributions since joining the Lakers at the trade deadline. Swingman Austin Reaves combined for 36 points and 11 assists over 52 minutes in the Lakers’ last two games.
Dennis Schroder scored a team-high 26 points on Wednesday and also scored 26 points in a road win over the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 11. Ham praised Schroder for “being a good leader” in the win against the Thunder.
On Friday, the Lakers host the Timberwolves without James and Russell, who was acquired by the Lakers before the trade deadline in a deal with Minnesota.