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The Lakers Need LeBron

Minnesota+Timberwolves+guard+Jeff+Teague+%280%29+drives+to+the+net+in+the+first+quarter+against+the+Los+Angeles+Lakers+on+Sunday%2C+Jan.+6%2C+2019+at+Target+Center+in+Minneapolis%2C+Minn.+He+finished+with+15+points.+The+Minnesota+Timberwolves+defeated+the+Los+Angeles+Lakers%2C+108-86.+%28Jeff+Wheeler%2FMinneapolis+Star+Tribune%2FTNS%29
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The Lakers Need LeBron

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague (0) drives to the net in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. He finished with 15 points. The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-86. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague (0) drives to the net in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. He finished with 15 points. The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-86. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague (0) drives to the net in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. He finished with 15 points. The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-86. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague (0) drives to the net in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. He finished with 15 points. The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-86. (Jeff Wheeler/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Patrick McColl, Staff Writer

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On Christmas day, the Lakers blew out the Golden State Warriors on their on home court in Oakland in one of the most impressive wins by any team this season. During that process, they lost their best player in LeBron James due to a groin strain midway through the 3rd quarter, but were able to fend off the Warriors. While LeBron was listed day to day and things looked brighter, it is now January 18th, and the Lakers are 5-7 without LeBron.

During this stretch, the Lakers have struggled offensively, yet haven’t played any great teams. Losing to the the Knicks who barely have 10 wins, and the Cavaliers who haven’t even reached double digit wins on the season yet and were a month away from the all-star break.

Head coach Luke Walton has been under fire, and although he may have redeemed some job security with an impressive road win against the Thunder on Thursday, he is still sitting on a hot seat. The Lakers have fallen from a four seed to an eight seed during LeBron’s absence, and this was presumably a time there were supposed to take advantage of a soft schedule. Since LeBron got hurt, the Lakers schedule has featured teams with a combined record of 187-257. Even with the roster not as strong as it was without LeBron, you’d have to imagine that there was a bigger expectation than to lose this many games to those teams.

Over the next month going into the all-star break, the Lakers have a much tougher schedule then have so far been asked without LeBron. They play Golden State twice, the same team that dropped 51 points in the first quarter against the first seeded Nuggets recently. They also face Philadelphia twice, Indiana, Boston, and Houston, who are all within the top five seeds in their respective conferences. The only two seemingly “easy” games against bad competition that they have would be against bottom seeded Atlanta and Phoenix. Yet, if LeBron is out for either of those games, the way the Lakers have played, it wouldn’t be surprising if they lost both of them.

LeBron’s teams have historically struggled without him. LeBron has left Cleveland twice and the first time they got a number one pick, and this time they are on pace to get the number one pick again, with the worst record in the league. After his departure from Miami, they missed the Playoffs well under .500.

So, maybe we shouldn’t overreact, but the Lakers don’t have a lot of room to slip up. If they continue to lose, they could find themselves out of the playoffs or a very low seed which would all but certainly knock them out of the playoffs early against a top seed like the Golden State Warriors. Now, even though they might run into and be defeated by Warriors later on, getting beat in the Western Conference Finals sounds a lot better than getting beat in the first round of the playoffs. That is especially important when the Lakers are trying to convince free agents to come to the team, and that their addition could put the team over the hump to winning it all, not just further in the playoffs.

LeBron isn’t going anywhere after committing and signing a four year deal this last July, and the Lakers still have a bright future. Unfortunately, if LeBron is getting hurt, the team is slipping, and the supporting cast can’t carry their own weight, it will be hard for the Lakers to attract free agents this summer. If they can’t figure it out soon or at least show some more promise, the LeBron empire in L.A. could fade away before it even begins.

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The Lakers Need LeBron