LeBron James has missed over twenty games this season and it has been no surprise to see the LA Lakers struggle without him. James returned to the starting lineup on Friday and has played in the Lakers' last two games, both of which were losses. James could now be looking at another period of time on the sideline.
Prior to Monday night's difficult encounter with the Denver Nuggets, it was announced that LeBron James would miss out. The 36-year-old had limped out of Sunday afternoon's loss against Toronto in the fourth quarter and as of now, it is uncertain how long his absence will last.
How might LeBron James' absence affect the LA Lakers tonight and going forward?
LeBron James' effect on the LA Lakers' success, or indeed the success of any franchise he has played for, is glaringly obvious to see. Without their leader this year, the reigning champions have gone 8-13. When Anthony Davis was out, James helped keep the team's record afloat, winning seven of thirteen matchups.
Throughout the season, James has led the Lakers in points and assists (25 and 7 respectively) and has the best +/- of any of his teammates with 6.6. It is hardly surprising that his impact on the court has been so profound in the franchise's success after his exploits in the bubble last year.
Not only will the LA Lakers miss his creativity, but his leadership and will to win too. Their fixture run-in is particularly challenging, and therefore LeBron James' injury could not have come at a worse time. After the Nuggets, the Lakers play the LA Clippers on Thursday before taking on the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks.
They are placed perilously above the berths for the Western Conference play-in tournament, just ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers due to their superior conference record. Should James miss out then on their upcoming games, facing multiple teams above 500, the Lakers would surely land in the play-in tournament picture.
As for tonight's game against the Denver Nuggets, the LA Lakers already had their backs against the wall. Nikola Jokic has the Nuggets firing on all cylinders, winning nine of their last ten games and doing so without Jamal Murray. The Lakers will be without their own point guard, Dennis Schroder, who is sidelined for at least 10 days due to the league's health and safety protocols. Without Schroder and James, the Lakers could be in for a long night and potentially a long week.