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LeBron James Says He Can't Assess Lakers Properly Due to Being Shorthanded

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 22, 2021

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The Los Angeles Lakers looked downright pedestrian again during Tuesday's 108-90 loss to the Phoenix Suns, but LeBron James didn't have many big-picture concerns after the game.

He told reporters the fact that the Purple and Gold are so shorthanded makes it particularly difficult to assess where they stand in the overall Western Conference picture even though they fell to 16-16 with their third consecutive loss.

If the season ended Tuesday, Los Angeles would be in the play-in tournament as the No. 7 seed in the West.

James is correct about the team being overmatched in large part because of absences across the roster. The Lakers were without Anthony Davis, Kendrick Nunn, Kent Bazemore, Malik Monk, Austin Reaves and Avery Bradley in the latest loss.

What's more, Carmelo Anthony was ejected in the third quarter for arguing a no-call, which left the home team without one of its go-to options at this point. It has reached a point where the Lakers are quite reliant on Isaiah Thomas after signing him out of the G League.

Even a full-strength Los Angeles squad would have had its hands full against the Suns. After all, Phoenix eliminated James and Co. in the first round of last season's playoffs and now has the NBA's best record at 25-5 with the steady backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker leading the way.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been a measuring-stick type game for the Lakers since the Suns figure to be one of the primary obstacles in the Western Conference playoffs, but the King was not looking to make any such assessments given the state of the roster.

Still, there will be shooting and fit concerns with Russell Westbrook the rest of the season. Health is also always at the forefront of the issues when it comes to Davis, and it is at least fair to wonder how much of a toll carrying the offense on a nightly basis will take on the 36-year-old James during the regular season.

He finished with 34 points in Tuesday's loss, while Westbrook and Trevor Ariza were his only teammates to score more than seven.

Perhaps the story will be different when the veteran-laden Lakers are all healthy and on the court, but it is difficult to see this team as a legitimate title contender after yet another loss.       

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