After being one of the most active teams at the trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers head into the All-Star break with a reloaded roster and a renewed sense of confidence.
While the sample size may be small, (the team has played just 3 games since acquiring D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt, only 1 of which actually saw LeBron James play with them) the early returns have had Lakers fans feeling excited again. After two mostly joyless seasons, including the night that saw LeBron break Kareem Abdul Jabaar’s scoring record, it was clear something needed to be done. Despite LeBron doing something once considered impossible, there were still just as many stories about AD’s body language and Russell Westbrook’s blowup with Darvin Ham the next day.
The vibes had never been worse and with another season slipping away, the team made a splash at the deadline, giving the fans (and players) something to be excited about.
The All-Star break comes at a great time for a team trying to learn how to play together but once the season resumes, it’s going to be a tall task for the Lakers if they want a chance at even just the Play-In Tournament. With a record of 27-32 and sitting 13th in the standings, the Lakers need to go a minimum of 16-7 through the team’s final 23 games. On one hand, it’s nice for the team to have a target in mind and to know what’s needed, but a small slump may quickly lead to bigger issues given the stress the team will constantly be under down the stretch.
Still, it’s hard not to be optimistic after the team’s last game before the break. Against the Pelicans and with LeBron in the lineup for the first time alongside his new teammates, the Lakers won handily by double digits, a rarity in recent years. Led by elite passing from D’Angelo Russell and LeBron, it’s clear that the pieces are there for the team to actually finally resemble the championship contender that fans expect.
It’s highly unlikely that every key player will have big games night in and night out, but how the team responds and how teammates step up will ultimately decide just how far the team can go this season. As with any team trying to make a deep playoff run, there will be a little luck involved, both with the team itself and with the opponents they’ll face along the way. Regardless of injuries or other outside issues, the path to the playoffs is there and the team knows exactly what they need to do.
Now it’s just on them to finish the story.