Lakers playoff hopes receive big jolt with win and positive LeBron update

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

After conflicting reports about the potential return of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, head coach Darvin Ham’s recent comments have cleared up some of the confusion. With fewer than three weeks remaining in the regular season, it appeared as though James would miss most, if not all, of that remaining time.

Fortunately, for the Lakers, it appears that James will be back with time to spare to help them battle to make the postseason. Thus far, the Lakers have done an admirable job without him, but a healthy James would obviously significantly increase their chances of doing so.

James’ impending return gives the Lakers a shot in the arm.

Despite having beaten the Orlando Magic on Sunday, the Lakers still find themselves teetering on the edge of the play-in tournament. They are currently 10th in the West but are only half a game ahead of the 12th-ranked New Orleans Pelicans simply because they have played one more game than them.

Luckily, while the Lakers expect to have James back sooner rather than later, the Pelicans may be without their superstar Zion Williamson going forward. The Minnesota Timberwolves are also in a similar boat, with Karl Anthony-Towns unlikely to return this season and Anthony Edwards dealing with a foot injury that could cost him games down the stretch.

The competition for the play-in tournament has also decreased with the Portland Trail Blazers losing six straight games and possibly throwing in the towel by sitting star Damian Lillard. All of that benefits the Lakers, so much so that five-thirty-eight now gives them a 51% chance of making the play-in tournament. Even then, it is still essentially a toss-up, but momentum clearly appears to favor the Lakers.

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Ultimately, these final 11 games will decide the fate of Los Angeles’ season, and they will likely have James back for at least some of them. Considering how poorly they started the season, making the play-in tournament or the playoffs would be an accomplishment.