The Los Angeles Lakers have had better days as mounting injuries has the team heading towards the play-in tournament unless they get some major help from the teams above them in the standings. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith is not buying the idea that the Lakers will become a contender once LeBron James returns to the lineup. Smith predicts the Lakers will continue their skid and have a difficult time advancing past the play-in tournament.
“I’m scared right now,” Smith said on First Take after the Lakers’ recent loss to the Clippers. “I’m scared for the Los Angeles Lakers. I want to put the basketball world on official notice. I don’t even know if the Lakers will get past the play-in game. The play-in game, they don’t look good. They don’t look good. They don’t look good at all.”
As the Lakers enter the final week of the regular season, it is easier to name the healthy players than the lengthy list of injuries. James along with Anthony Davis have been sidelined with injuries for a good portion of the second half of the season. Dennis Schroder is currently in COVID protocol, while Talen Horton-Tucker and Kyle Kuzma are also dealing with injuries.
“Anthony Davis, listen, we all know when healthy the guy is all-world, but everything that can happen seems to happen to him,” Smith added. “It was his calf injury, then it looked like it was his ankle last night [vs. Clippers] early in the first quarter and then after that, we hear that it’s back spasms, for crying out loud. LeBron James comes back, he plays, he says he’ll never be 100% again. I believe that’s hyperbole. I don’t believe him for one second, but he could be talking about, ‘I’m not going to be 100% again this season.’”
Here is a look at Smith’s pointed criticism of the Lakers.
“I wanna put the basketball world on official notice: I don’t even know if the Lakers are getting past the Play-In game!”
— First Take (@FirstTake) May 7, 2021
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Vogel: ‘I’m Unafraid of the Play-in Tournament with This Team’
Smith’s rant came before the Lakers’ recent loss to the Blazers which puts Los Angeles squarely in the play-in tournament barring a miraculous turn of events. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is not panicking about the current state of affairs.
“For me, I’m unafraid of the play-in tournament with this team,” Vogel said, per Silver Screen and Roll. “But we definitely want to finish in the top-six. There’s just too many things that can happen in a one-game series: foul trouble, a rolled ankle, anything like that could pop up. We definitely want to finish in the top-six, it’s high priority for us, but at the same time, I’m confident in our group.”
Stephen A. Smith on the Lakers: ‘I’m Officially in Panic Mode’
Smith does not share this same optimism putting himself in “panic mode” when it comes to the Lakers. The ESPN analyst cited a deep Western conference as an added concern for the Lakers heading into the postseason.
“I’m very concerned about the Los Angeles Lakers from that standpoint alone,” Smith added. “Then when you look at the rest of the Western Conference, what is there to say? Utah, Phoenix, the L.A. Clippers, the Denver Nuggets. Portland, you can’t sleep on them. Dallas, you can’t sleep on them with Luka averaging 29, nine and eight. I mean, my God. There are reasons to be concerned about the Los Angeles Lakers, and right now, I am officially in panic mode that the Lakers might not make it past the damn play-in game.”