The Lakers have been struggling in the first half of the season because of injuries and lost players to free agency that played key roles in last year’s title run.
Analysis by Elvin Gonzalez, Staff Writer
As the Los Angeles Lakers continue to defend their championship crown, they have been struggling with injuries and being short-handed on the roster.
The purple and gold are without their NBA superstar big man Anthony Davis due to an Achilles tendinosis, leaving a 36-year-old Lebron James to carry the Lakers, who is averaging 25.6 pts, 8 rebounds and 8 assists while playing 35 minutes a game, according to Basketball Reference.
Lakers knew prior to locking up their all-star big man to a five-year deal worth $190 million that he has a problem staying healthy. Since entering the league in 2012, Davis has been dealing with the injury bug: he has dealt with ankle issues, back problems, fracture hand, torn labrum and a bruised tailbone. The most games he missed was in 2019 with 26 due to a left index finger sprain and publicly asking to be traded; he has missed a total of 128 games in his career this season according to Basketball Reference.
According to Fox Sports — via the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine that looked at 47 NBA athletes who suffered Achilles ruptures from 1970 to 2019 — those who returned had shorter careers and "decreased game utilization and performance at all-time points relative to their individual preindex baseline."
Davis said at a press conference that he would not mind playing with a jacked up finger, but when it comes to the Achilles tendon, it is not worth messing with it. Look back at the late great Kobe Bryant, when he suffered an Achilles injury against the Golden State Warriors that kept him out of basketball for the 2014 NBA season. Kevin Durant, who suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in game 5 of the 2019 NBA finals, missed over a year of basketball, but now has the Brooklyn Nets competing with the Lakers for a chance at an NBA championship.
Another reason why the Lakers are playing poorly as of late is because the lost players to free agency and trade. The team lost key contributors such as JaVale McGee and Danny Green, who had championship experience before joining the Lakers. One of the reasons why the purple and gold found success in 2020 that led them to a 17th Larry O’Brien trophy was their stellar defense and clutch three-point shooting.
If the Lakers want to repeat as champions in 2021, they will have to address the center and forward position with Davis missing a whole month. Look for the purple and gold to be active on the buyout market.