Lakers News: Vogel Discusses LeBron's Injury, AD Challenges Westbrook and More
The Los Angeles Lakers might not have erased concerns about their slow start to the season, as it took overtime to outlast the San Antonio Spurs. However, L.A. did move to 2-2 on the year, and it got an important win with superstar LeBron James on the bench.
James, who suffered an ankle injury in Game 3, ended up sitting against San Antonio. Malik Monk got the start, and the tandem of Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook powered the Lakers to a 125-121 victory.
Los Angeles now faces a quick turnaround and will visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night. Here, we'll take a look at the latest buzz surrounding Los Angeles' latest win, James' injury and more heading into Game 5.
Lakers to Take 'Marathon' Approach with James
Before the season, James made it known that he doesn't plan to limit himself or play the load-management game in 2021
"I don't play the game thinking about injuries," James said, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin. "And I also feel worse when I play low minutes."
However, head coach Frank Vogel made it very clear that he is going to be cautious with James and his latest injury. According to Kane Pitman of Sporting News, the plan is to take a "marathon" approach to the 2021 season.
Clearly, this means not pushing the 36-year-old James when he's at less than 100 percent. The good news is that James sitting on Tuesday doesn't necessarily mean that the ankle injury is serious.
"He's just day to day, and he'll get evaluated again tomorrow and see what the soreness is like and make a decision then," Vogel said, per Pitman.
And that's the beauty of having a third superstar in Westbrook. Vogel can afford to take the "marathon" approach when it comes to even minor injuries because having two of the Big Three will usually be enough to give Los Angeles a chance.
It won't be a surprise if James sits again on Wednesday, but having him on the court at the end of the season will be far more important than having him in the lineup now.
Davis Challenged Westbrook to Just Be Himself
Westbrook didn't get off to a hot start with the Lakers. He scored just 43 points over his first three games, as he struggled to fit in alongside James and Davis. However, with James out, Davis challenged Westbrook to be the offensive centerpiece he was in Oklahoma City and with the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards.
"I told Russ, I said, 'Whether I play, 'Bron play, we don't play, it doesn't matter. You still gotta be yourself,'" Davis said, per Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group. "He did that tonight. The way he played tonight was incredible."
Westbrook was indeed impressive in what hopefully represented a breakthrough game. He finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Davis added 35 points, 17 rebounds and four assists, and with a solid showing from the supporting cast, the Lakers got enough for the victory.
The big question, of course, is whether Westbrook can continue to shine when James returns. Vogel has Vogel admitted that Westbrook settling into a role will require "an adjustment period."
Malik Monk Has 'Unlimited Range'
The addition of Westbrook was obviously the highlight of the Lakers' offseason. However, the addition of Malik Monk is already paying off in a big way. Monk was instrumental in Tuesday night's win, notching 17 points and hitting four three-pointers—including a deep shot late that helped L.A. get to overtime.
Monk was brought in to help improve L.A.'s outside shooting, and Monk showed against San Antonio just how potent he can be on the perimeter.
"I've got unlimited range," Monk said, per Jacob Rude of Silver Screen and Roll.
While Monk was joking—and he probably doesn't have the green light to shoot from just anywhere—Monk and the Lakers are confident in his three-point prowess.
"I think every shot I shoot is going in, so super confident," Monk said, per Rude. "My teammates are confident in me, too, so that makes me even more confident."
The Lakers have a legitimate weapon in Monk, and they won't be afraid to use him in clutch situations. It's perhaps an underrated aspect of this L.A. roster that makes it better than it was a year ago.