Here are five storylines for the Lakers after the All-Star break:
How they all mend their issues could determine what course the Lakers take post-All-Star break in a season that’s already been way off course.
As vice president of basketball operations and general manager of the Lakers, Pelinka had to cringe when he heard James heap praise on Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti during his All-Star news conference Saturday, saying, “The MVP over there Sam Presti. He’s the MVP.”
With Pelinka not making any moves by the NBA’s tradeline, the Lakers kept the same group. Pellinka then told reporters that he had consulted with James and Anthony Davis and that they were OK with the Lakers’ inaction.
“Throughout this process, we had different things we looked at and, like I’ve done in the past, had conversations with LeBron and Anthony about it and I would say there’s alignment here,” Pelinka said on Zoom. “And that’s all that matters.”
Reports soon surfaced that James and Davis were not aware of what Pelinka was doing.
That led to James making his remarks.
The Lakers will be back at practice Thursday in preparation for the rest of the season that has already taken yet another turn with James, Pelinka and the Lakers.
Can James stay on his torrid pace?
Can he continue to carry the Lakers like he has in the first 58 games?
James is playing at a high level, looking nothing like a 37-year-old who is playing in his 19th season.
He is averaging 29.1 points per game, third-best in the NBA and his highest since the 2009-10 season, when he averaged 29.7 points with Cleveland.
He is shooting 52.2% from the field, 35.3% from three-point range and is averaging 7.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists a game.
He has scored 25 points or more in 23 consecutive games.
So, there appears to be no slowing down.
But James is averaging 36.8 minutes per game, a heavy load even for him.
The Lakers need all James can give them just to win games.
3. The health of Anthony Davis always seems to be a concern
He suffered a right mid-foot sprain during their last game against the Utah Jazz on Feb. 16. The next day the Lakers said Davis would be re-evaluated in “approximately four weeks.”
So, the best-case scenario would have Davis returning about March 18 at Toronto.
That would give Davis about three weeks to get ready for the rest of the season.
But how long would it take for Davis to get into “basketball shape” and to get his rhythm back? And what if he comes back later than four weeks?
For the Lakers to have any chances of being better after the All-Star break, they’ll need Davis back at some point.
4. The Lakers and Russell Westbrook need to find ways to make the point guard better
He’s averaging just 18.3 points per game, his lowest since his second year in the NBA. Never known for his three-point shooting, Westbrook is making only 29.9% of his shots behind the line, and he’s shooting 43.7% overall. His turnovers (4.1 per game) remain a problem, but he is averaging 7.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists.
But in his last two games, which came after the trade deadline, Westbrook was better, averaging 18 points and shooting 50%.
Westbrook operated a little more in the post, something the Lakers feel might work for them going forward.
The Lakers are probably headed toward the play-in tournament
The Lakers (27-31 and ninth in the Western Conference) are six games behind the Denver Nuggets, who hold the sixth spot, which guarantees a playoff berth.
Can the Lakers, with 24 games remaining, catch the Nuggets?
It seems doubtful. Plus, the Lakers would also have to pass the Minnesota Timberwolves (seventh place) and Clippers (eighth).
The Lakers have talked about going on a winning streak after the break. The longest of the season has been four games. But they have lost seven of their last 10 games.