The LeBron-to-Los Angeles move sure didn’t work out as expected in its first season. There was a time when the Lakers were the second choice in preseason futures betting to win the NBA Championship. Now? Not so much. The Lakers have essentially thrown in the towel on the season. The team has made the decision to shut down talented youngsters Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram due to injuries. Ball suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain in mid December while Ingram has been diagnosed with deep venous thrombosis in his right arm.
Also shut down for the year is the myth that LeBron James is so good that you can put any group of players around him and contend for a title. The Lakers can’t even come near the playoffs with that scenario, let alone touch the top teams in either conference. Head coach Luke Walton didn’t have much to say about either player other than to say that Ball is making ‘good progress’. He was less forthcoming on Ingram:
“We’ve released what he’s got going on, but I’m not going to get into all the details. I’m just finding out a lot of it myself. All I’m going to say on him right now is that he’s out for the rest of the season.”
The Lakers are also going to take it easy with LeBron. The plan is to limit his minutes and not play him in back-to-back games. No matter how you slice it or what excuses are made the Lakers season has been the ‘mother of all grease fires’. Los Angeles enters Tuesday’s game with Chicago having lost 16 of their last 20 games straight up going 5-15 ATS. They’re on a five game straight up losing streak and an 8 game pointspread losing streak. They’ve covered only 2 of their last 12 contests.
Los Angeles has been equally bad in most situational spots. At home, they’re 18-16 SU but 11-21-2 against the spread. On the road, they’re 12-20 SU and 14-18 against the spread. Against the Eastern Conference they’re a brutal 9-13 SU and an even worse 5-16-1 ATS. As a favorite, they’ve won a few more games than they’ve lost SU (22-19) but are 14-25-2 against the spread. That’s 35.9% if you’re scoring at home. As a road favorite–the situation that they’re in here–they’re 6-11 SU and 5-12 ATS.
The Chicago Bulls aren’t a very talented team but they’re at least exerting an effort down the stretch and not ‘shutting it down’. Otto Porter, Jr. was acquired from Washington at the trade deadline and has been a nice addition to the team. They’ve also received good work from Zack LaVine and Lauri Markkanen though LaVine is downgraded to ‘doubtful’ for this game. Porter is listed as ‘probable’. For the Lakers, Kyle Kuzma is listed as ‘questionable’ but if that’s the case there’s no real reason he should go. Tyson Chandler will miss this game along with Ingram and Ball. As of yet, there’s no indication what sort of workload LeBron will have down the stretch.
For awhile, the Lakers were showing up for road games against ‘marquee opponents’ which gave them covers at the LA Clippers, Golden State and Boston. They haven’t won or covered a game away from the Staples Center since winning outright by 1 point at the TD Garden on February 7. Since then they’ve lost to Indiana and Philadelphia but also to Atlanta, New Orleans, Memphis and the lowly Phoenix Suns. There’s every reason to expect the Bulls to turn in the better effort here and that’ll be enough to get them a win over a Lakers team that just doesn’t care anymore.