So, 15.5 games separate the Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers, but it feels like double that after what happened Saturday.
Not only did the Lakers lose to the Boston Celtics, their dreaded rivals, at home, but Los Angeles reportedly decided to shut down former No. 2 draft pick Lonzo Ball for the rest of the season. Coach Luke Walton also announced before the game that the Lakers would shut down another former No. 2 pick: Brandon Ingram.
Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball has been shut down for the remainder of the season, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Ball had his left ankle re-evaluated by doctors today and sides agreed on course of action.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 10, 2019
Luke Walton won't get into any details about Brandon Ingram but says Ingram is out for the season. https://t.co/lwMaSRJ7q8
— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) March 9, 2019
Ball and Ingram, of course, had their names floated in Anthony Davis trade rumors ahead of the deadline, only to stay in purple and gold after no deal was completed. If you ask ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy, no Laker should be safe from trade speculation.
Not even LeBron James.
Jeff Van Gundy says the Lakers should consider trading LeBron James in the off season:
"If I could trade him to the Clippers into cap space, which would give me a better chance to get Durant or Kawhi Leonard. Would I not do that? " pic.twitter.com/dtHjMUZxGH
— Sideline Sources (@sidelinesources) March 10, 2019
"I think they need to explore trading LeBron for as much as they can," Van Gundy said on ABC's Lakers-Celtics broadcast. " ... You've gotta get on the right timeline. If I could trade him [to] the Clippers, into cap space, which would give me a better chance to get [Kevin] Durant or [Kawhi] Leonard, would I not do that?"
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Not even three months ago, the Lakers looked like they were on the rise. They badly beat the Warriors at Oracle Arena on Christmas Day, and were fourth in the Western Conference.
Since then, Los Angeles is just 10-22, and has struggled trying to rediscover that early season success while Ball and James missed significant time. As a result, James' first season in Hollywood almost certainly will end without a trip to the playoffs, and the Lakers' postseason drought would hit six seasons.
It looked at one point like the Warriors again would have to overcome a LeBron-led squad in pursuit of a title, but Golden State only will play Los Angeles once more on April 4. What difference a few months make.