The Los Angeles Lakers were dealt a brutal blow on Monday, February 27, as it was reported that LeBron James could be out several weeks with a right foot injury. The 38-year-old, who is averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game this season, had been dealing with left foot and ankle pain before the All-Star break, but he made his way back and then suffered this new injury in Sunday’s big road win over the Dallas Mavericks. At one point in the game, LeBron went to the ground and was seen telling teammates that he heard a pop. King James will now be re-evaluated in two weeks, but it seems like he'll be out a bit longer than that.
The timing of this injury is miserable for Los Angeles. The Lakers are currently in 12th place in the Western Conference standings, which means they’ll have their work cut out for them in order to earn a play-in spot. Los Angeles did make some massive improvements before the trade deadline, essentially turning Patrick Beverley, Russell Westbrook and Thomas Bryant into D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Mo Bamba and Rui Hachimura. That had some of our experts feeling great about Los Angeles’ chances of making the playoffs at -110 odds (before the injury).
The bad news is that those Lakers players were brought in to play with LeBron, not carry the team without him. Los Angeles also gave up a first-round pick in one of those deals, and that will sting if the team is unable to make the postseason this season. The Lakers pushed all of their chips in to ensure success in what could be LeBron’s final two years with the team, and it would be a nightmare if this ended up being a wasted season.
Since LeBron arrived in Los Angeles, the Lakers are just 36-62 in games he hasn’t played. This roster has a better chance of handling the superstar’s absence than previous groups did, but simply surviving without LeBron might not be good enough. As previously mentioned, this is a team that has work to do in order to get back into the Western Conference playoff picture. That means having a winning record the rest of the way.
Can the Lakers play winning basketball without the focal point of their offense? That remains to be seen. But what we do know is that Los Angeles now has a more difficult path to winning an NBA championship. Before this injury, a lot of people were optimistic about the Lakers’ chances of playing well enough to sneak into a top-six spot in the Western Conference and avoid the play-in scenario. That also would have put them in a situation in which they’d potentially be facing an inexperienced Sacramento Kings team in the first round.
Not only do the Lakers now look like a team that’s poised to miss the playoffs, but they’d have a tough matchup if they do end up sneaking in. Of course, the argument can be made that Los Angeles would have had to go through the Denver Nuggets or Memphis Grizzlies in order to win another NBA championship anyway, but the last thing you want to do is face either of those teams in the first round. At that point, even if LeBron were to return from this injury, he’d be easing his way back into action and wouldn’t have had the time required to learn how to play with his new teammates. All of that likely played a role in DraftKings Sportsbook moving Los Angeles' championship odds from +2300 to +3000 after the injury.
This news could ultimately serve as a death blow to LeBron and the Lakers, so make sure you continue seeking updates on this situation. When the star gets closer to a return, our NBA Injury Report page will give you a good idea of when you can comfortably bet on Los Angeles again.