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With LeBron James out, Lakers feel a renewed sense of accountability

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) drives past Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray.
Lakers star LeBron James drives past Sacramento Kings forward Keegan Murray during a game in December.
(José Luis Villegas / Associated Press)
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Hey everyone, welcome to the LA Times’ Lakers Newsletter. It’s Dan Woike, and while I’m no injury expert, I’ve always considered myself to be “day to day.” This week, we’re going to look at the latest LeBron James news, what it could mean for the team’s playoff push and the unlikely player who could help navigate the Lakers through it.

LeBron James out at least three weeks

The Lakers officially announced LeBron James’ foot injury Thursday, five days after he went down on the court in Dallas with a non-contact injury to his right foot.

While the Lakers offered little in detail — James has a “right foot tendon injury” — the team said he would be evaluated in approximately three weeks.

The Lakers play 10 times in the next three weeks with eight games happening in Los Angeles.

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James posted a video of himself inside a whirlpool with “road to recovery” written on it Thursday to mark his first day of rehab from the injury.

While the initial injury news was disappointing, inside the Lakers locker room it was never met with panic. The Lakers, who began Thursday in 11th place in the West, are well within striking distance of a spot in the postseason.

And with so many teams tightly packed (often playing one another), there’s not a lot of fear of a bunch of teams running away from the back of the pack.

That being said, there’s still internal pressure to perform ... and curiosity whether the Lakers can respond to that pressure the way Dennis Schroder did Wednesday.

After the Lakers lost to Memphis on Tuesday under a deluge of turnovers, Schroder called Wednesday’s game at the Thunder a “must win.” And then, in the first half, Schroder missed his first six shots and rolled his ankle, the Lakers trailing by as many as eight to Oklahoma City.

After frustration led to plenty of on-court conversations in Memphis, the Lakers again were able to talk through their issues. Schroder was at the front of all of it, leading the Lakers without Anthony Davis to victory behind his 22 second-half points.

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Los Angeles Lakers guard Dennis Schroder controls the ball against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
(LM Otero / Associated Press)

“I think that everybody just keeping everybody accountable,” Schroder said of the team. “I can go to AD and say, ‘Listen, you’re not doing this, you gotta be better.’ And he’s coming to me and saying, ‘Yeah, OK. I’m gonna do it the next time.’ I think accountability in this locker room got better. Everybody looking at themself first before they say anything. And I think that’s what a real team is about.”

Schroder acknowledged being comfortable in the absence of the Lakers’ stars.

“I can play like I was in Germany. Playing freely,” he said. “I can play my role when everybody’s here and try to do my best when the team’s here, but if the ball is in my hands, I can do a lot, too. Of course it’s bad that they’re hurt right now and AD sat out, but it’s always fun when I get the ball as well — and we get a win.”

It was his play during the European championships this summer that earned him consideration as the Lakers starting point guard. The team’s trade for D’Angelo Russell moved him back to the bench, but with Russell out because of an ankle injury, Schroder helped the team go 2-1.

He was the first name Darvin Ham mentioned after the Lakers beat the Thunder.

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“Well, I think having a competitor like Dennis Schroder, the way he … Those of us that are basketball fanatics and watch it in season and offseason at various levels, if anyone saw how he led his national team this summer, this performance tonight wouldn’t surprise them at all,” Ham said. “He did a great job of being a leader out there. A guy with probably the most miles out of anybody in this league. And especially at halftime.

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“He had a rough shooting first half but he made the proper adjustments, picked it up defensively after twisting his ankle and really led the entire group.”

Schroder said he wasn’t too concerned about his ankle — he’s a quick healer, he said.

“I mean we just want to keep it going,” Schroder said. “Our goal was, beginning of the season, to make the playoffs. And it is still now. And I think with the trades we made, the people who came in, they got the same mindset, coach got a clear message, and I think everybody’s on the same page.”

Song of the week

“Home Sweet Home” by Mötley Crüe

Note of thanks

Thanks to the generosity of co-worker Broderick Turner, I won’t be on the road with the Lakers until their final trip of the season, meaning I get four-plus weeks here in Los Angeles. The good news for the Lakers — in that stretch they’re only on the road for two games. It’s a chance for the team to make their playoff push right here in their home city, and this is the perfect power ballad to commemorate this chance.

In case you missed it

Dennis Schroder sparks Lakers to ‘must win’ over Thunder

LeBron-less Lakers can’t keep pace with Ja Morant, Grizzlies

LeBron James to miss Lakers’ game Tuesday and possibly more

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‘We keep progressing’: Lakers takeaways after beating Dallas

Lakers wipe out 27-point deficit to beat the Mavericks

Lakers-Warriors takeaways: Austin Reaves, Malik Beasley make their mark

Until next time...

As always, pass along your thoughts to me at daniel.woike@latimes.com, and please consider subscribing if you like our work!

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