When the Los Angeles Lakers acquired LeBron James, fans rejoiced as they assumed that he would lead them back to relevancy. After missing out on the playoffs for the last six seasons, fans, analysts, media members, and oddsmakers were confident they would be back this year.
Confidence was so high among oddsmakers that the Westgate SuperBook had the Lakers odds of making the playoffs prior to the season at -450 and +350 to miss. With the improvements that the team’s young core had made the last couple of years and the addition of James, it seemed like a good bet.
Fast forward to the present, and that isn’t necessarily true anymore.
After their recent loss to the Phoenix Suns, Westgate dropped the odds on the Lakers making the postseason down to +600, which still gives them a 14.29 percent chance to make it. Their odds to miss the playoffs now are even more telling (-900 which translates into a 90 percent chance they miss).
They are certainly not out of the race by any stretch of the imagination. However, the Lakers will need to find their ‘A’ game as soon as possible while hoping at the same time other teams take a hard stumble. With Monday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers record dropped to 30-34 on the season. They are now 5.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
It’s a deficit that can be made up but would likely take some incredible heroics from James due to all the injuries the Lakers are dealing with. Monday night they were without the services of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Lance Stephenson, and Tyson Chandler. Late in the game, they lost Kyle Kuzma to a sprained ankle.
So, if the Lakers are going to do it, they will need some help from other teams. But more importantly, they will need James to take over for the final 18 games of the season.
Monday night after the loss to the Clippers, James had this to say about how he and the team move forward (ESPN):
“You keep playing to the end and see what happens. I’ve been talking about it for a while now. Everyone has been talking about the postseason, (but) we should be worried about each and every game and how we can continue to get better with our process and get better with our team.”
There has been some speculation as to whether James will sit once the Lakers are eliminated. When asked about that scenario Monday night, he bristled at the suggestion. He said it would take a lot of convincing for him to do that before saying that he is playing if he isn’t hurt.
Whether that ends up being the case, fans could find out sooner rather than later. The Lakers have one of the tougher remaining schedules with over half of their remaining games against playoff-bound teams.