Fifty-nine games into an uneven regular season, the Lakers remain an unsettling group.
That has to be disconcerting for a team with a stated goal of reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
The Lakers did not practice when they arrived here Sunday, but LeBron James voiced his displeasure at where the team is with 23 games left after Saturday night’s disturbing loss to New Orleans.
James lamented missing 18 games because of a left groin injury, the absence of Lonzo Ball, who’s sidelined with an ankle injury, and the suspensions of Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram for their roles in a fight with Houston’s Chris Paul.
The Lakers were 20-14 and fourth in the West when James got hurt. Now 29-30, they are 10th in the standings, three games behind the Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot, and James is in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 2005.
“I knew it was going to be very challenging, just because of the [limited] experience the roster had at that point and time,” James said. “I knew it was going to be challenging from that sense, but I felt like we could still play better basketball. And we were doing that and obviously it sucks that my injury happened and Zo’s injury happened and so many of our injuries happened. And we had suspensions in there.
“So, I’m huge on chemistry and camaraderie … but the injuries have felt like it’s taken a toll on our team. So hopefully we can get Zo back soon to kind of help that out. And hopefully we can start playing a little bit better too.”
The Lakers have much room for improvement. They are 29th in the NBA in free-throw shooting (68.9%) and turnovers (15.6), 27th in three-point shooting (33.8%) and 23rd in points allowed (113.6).
James said the key for the Lakers is being uncomfortable and finding a way through that.
“It’s how you approach the game every day,” he said. “It’s how you think the game every day. It’s how you play the game. It’s how you prepare for the game. And it’s not even like when you get to the arena. It’s like way before that. It’s like, basketball, is that the most important thing while we’re doing this? Is it the most important thing in your life at this time?
“…If you feel like you’re giving it all to the game, then you can do other things. But if you feel like you’re not giving as much as you can, then you can’t focus on anything else. That’s just … my personal take.”
When: 5 p.m. PST, Monday.
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Update: The Grizzlies have lost four consecutive games and five out of six. They are last in the NBA in scoring, averaging 100.8 points. But they allow the second-fewest points, 104 per game.