The Lakers Lose More Than a Game
March 25, 2021
By Eric Lambkins II Sports Reporter
The Lakers suffered a more significant loss than the 99-94 score would indicate last Saturday
March 20. In the second quarter, down 32-27, Lakers Center Montrezl Harrell set a routine
cross-screen on Atlanta Hawks guard, Rajon Rondo, to spring Lebron James free to drive to the
basket. As Lebron curled around the screen from the left-wing and toward three Hawks
defenders, Atlanta's Solomon Hill poked the ball away from James and dove for it to secure the
possession. The problem, James had already recovered the ball, and Hill's attempt to reach
across James' body for the steal, combined with his momentum, caused the Lakers' star to roll
James immediately went to the floor, clutched his ankle, and let out a scream as he writhed
in pain. James' injury sucked out what little energy and life that existed inside the empty
Staples Center. Shock, awe, and fear overcame the faces of the Lakers players and staff.
The tank-built and seemingly indestructible James tightened his laces, attempted to walk off
the injury, and opted to stay in the game. He hit a 3-pointer when Alex Caruso found him open
in the corner on the Lakers' next possession. When it became apparent that he could not finish
the contest, Lebron removed himself from the game and walked toward the locker room,
tossing a chair in frustration.
After the game, several Lakers voiced their displeasure. "A guy dove for a loose ball, took his
leg out from up under him," Montrezl Harrell said. "I really don't feel like it was one of those
loose-ball plays. He had to go through his leg to get the ball, man. He was turned sideways. The
ball was behind him. I mean, you're jumping at an angle, going across this way, I mean, I don't
know how you feel that's a loose ball."
Lakers' Guard Dennis Schröder echoed the same sentiment. "That's an unnecessary play to dive
in the leg like that."
The Lakers, already without their All-NBA big man, Anthony Davis, must now wait to see
what develops in the trade and buyout markets to fortify their roster. The Lakers' ability to
weather a rash of injuries will prove pivotal in their hopes to defend their title. The Lakers
currently have $1.7 million in available cap space. Their limited funds, coupled with a lack of
draft picks, puts them in a bind to make moves as the trade deadline looms. The Lakers'
inability to facilitate trades is further complicated because they do not own a first-round pick
until 2027, and their next available second-round selection isn't until 2023.
The buyout market remains viable. Players who wish to play for a ring may choose the
Lakers; however, other title contenders can offer them title contention plus higher
compensation than the Lakers.
If the Lakers take a cautious approach in handling James' injury, they could be without their
captain for an extended time. James, who has staved off Father Time by spending an excess of
$1 million a year in maintenance and care of his body, would have to defy the regular
recuperation timetable of 6-8 weeks, and up to three months in some extreme cases, of high
ankle sprains. The 18-year veteran has returned from ankle injuries quickly in the past.
The Lakers' seeding for the playoffs won't matter as long as they have a healthy James and
Davis, but with only four losses separating them and the 8th seeded Mavericks, they'll hope to
get their starts back sooner than later.
When asked who should take the mantle of leadership with Lebron out, Kyle Kuzma stated,
"I don't know. I really don't know at all." The Lakers and their fans hope that Kuzma can step
into this role. Kuzma can provide a considerable boon to the Lakers' title hopes both now and,
in the future, if he can manufacture enough offense to keep the Lakers afloat while their stars
The Lakers have lost more than their two All-Stars. They've lost leadership, consistency, and
dependability. To whom they turn to remains to be seen. Now is the time for Kuzma to evolve
into a consistent and legitimate scoring threat. The Lakers' ability to defend their title could
depend on it.
The Lakers play three home games in a row starting with the game on Friday against
Cleveland at 7:30 p.m., Sunday they face Orlando at 7 p.m. and and Wednesday they play
Milwaukee at 7 p.m.
Follow Eric on Twitter @elambsquared