LeBron James and Anthony Davis have both returned for the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA world expected smooth sailing from the defending champs until the playoffs. Not so fast. LA has lost the two games since James' return and the team looks a mess. Despite all the time missed due to injury and the way they looked this weekend, the Lakers aren't dead yet. No one should want to face them in the postseason.
Anthony Davis missed two months with a calf/Achilles injury and James was down for a month with a high ankle sprain. In that time the Lakers changed. They added Andre Drummond and Ben McLemore, who both became contributors and the entire roster had to learn to play without the team's big stars. That didn't really work, but now everyone has to revert back to deferring to James and Davis, while those two get used to playing full games. This was always going to be messy.
Despite all those negatives, the Lakers still have the second-best odds to win the NBA title according to WynnBet. Why? Because Davis and James are still breathing and the supporting cast fits their talent even better than last year's squad did. When healthy and playing right, the Lakers are the NBA's best defensive team and are capable of shutting down elite offenses. On offense, they have more shooters than they did during their run to the title in 2020 and they have LeBron and AD to do the rest of the work.
The real issue for the Lakers this season has been fatigue. The 2019-20 season lasted almost a full calendar year. Even with the COVID break, the league's players were still staying in shape because they didn't know when (or if) the season would be restarted. That time off wasn't a vacation.
The players returning from the Lakers' title team only had a few weeks to rest this offseason and it has shown. LA won the championship on October 11 and opened training camp on December 6, which is just ridiculous. Instead of months off, the Lakers got weeks. Of course the team was going to be more susceptible to injuries after such a short layoff. As it turns out, James has missed 21 games and Davis has missed 35. The NBA knew this was possible when it set up the schedule for this season and the Lakers have been unlucky.
There's still time for the Lakers to figure this out. They don't have a talent issue, just the chemistry problems that come from so little time on the court together. The timing isn't there, LeBron and AD are still rounding into form and the supporting cast has to get used to playing with them again.
The Lakers are down now, but they aren't out. They're a team no one should want to face in a playoff series because they could right the ship at any moment.