The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off a scorching performance from forward Kyle Kuzma, who stepped in to fill the void left by LeBron James’ absence. While James remains sidelined due to a strained groin suffered on Christmas Day, it’s been on the team’s young core to do the heavy lifting.
After a 1-5 stretch with the future Hall-of-Famer out of the lineup, the Lakers bounced back with two victories to start this week. The first came on the road against the Dallas Mavericks with the second being Kuzma’s 41-point showing against the Detroit Pistons. Next up is a nationally televised matchup with the Utah Jazz on the road, which will be a tough task.
Let’s check out the Lakers roster and starting lineup while also evaluating the latest on LeBron’s injury status.
Lakers Roster & Starting Lineup vs. Jazz
C: JaVale McGee*, Tyson Chandler, Ivica Zubac
PF: Kyle Kuzma*, Michael Beasley, Moritz Wagner
SF: Brandon Ingram*, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SG: Josh Hart*, Lance Stephenson, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
PG: Lonzo Ball*
What the Lakers have done in the past two games needs to carry on into Friday’s matchup, and it largely comes down to riding the hot hand while utilizing a few key role players. Although Kuzma isn’t going to catch fire the way he did against the Pistons on a nightly basis, he’ll have a big workload regardless.
Specifically looking at the last game against the Detroit Pistons, though, the Lakers played around Kuzma, with Lonzo Ball dishing out 11 assists. Brandon Ingram also scored 10 points with nine rebounds and six assists while not forcing his shot. Most importantly, the Lakers got production from the bench when Kuzma and the other starters were sitting.
Michael Beasley had arguably his best game of the season, totaling 19 points on 9-13 shooting with four assists, two rebounds and two blocks over 19 minutes. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also had a well-rounded performance with 16 points, six boards and four assists while Ivica Zubac nearly double-doubled in 23 minutes.
LeBron James’ Injury Update Looks Bleak
As the days go by, the hope remains high that James will be able to return sooner than later. Unfortunately, his timeline remains up in the air to some extent and is certainly fluid. Although we have an idea of when he’ll be evaluated and the date for another update, it’s not ideal. The Lakers released a statement Thursday stating a positive in the fact that James is cleared to “increase on-court functional basketball movements.”
But beyond that, it reveals that another update will come on January 16, meaning he’s set to miss at least the next three games. As Sam Amico of Amico Hoops revealed, this means James will set a new career high for most consecutive games missed, as the previous high was eight.
The Lakers will face the Jazz followed by the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls without James, and the best-case scenario for his return would be Thursday, January 17. That date marks a nationally-televised road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.