Scuffling and in the middle of a season-worst, four-game losing streak, the Los Angeles Lakers could use a boost.
And help could be the way this weekend in the form of starting point guard Dennis Schröder when the Lakers host the Portland Trailblazers on Friday at Staples Center.
The cat-quick, 27-year-old point guard has missed the last four games for Los Angeles -- all losses -- due to the league’s health and safety protocols.
Big man Anthony Davis also has missed the last five games because of a right calf strain that likely has him out for at least another three weeks. The Lakers are 5-5 without Davis in the lineup this season.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is hopeful his team will get a jolt from the return of Schröder if he clears the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Schröder was listed as probable to return on Friday.
“Dennis carries a big load for us,” Vogel said. “He’s a big minute guy that really moves the needle for us on the defensive end with his containment and pressure. He sets a tone for us and obviously the versatility he brings to the table offensively with the ability to bring the ball up and have another ball handler alongside LeBron, but also carry the scoring load as well. I think we’ve missed him on both sides of the ball.”
The slumping Lakers have struggled to shoot the ball and defend the 3-point line during the team’s losing stretch. In the month of February the Lakers are shooting a league-worst 29 percent from the 3-point line, but allowing opposing teams to shoot 38 percent from beyond the arc.
The Lakers appear to have communication issues defensively, allowing penetration down the middle of the defense with limited rim protection, getting out to shooters late or getting hung up on screens and not closing out quick enough on 3-point shooters.
“I believe in always getting back to the basics when things don’t go your way,” Lakers center Marc Gasol said. “It first starts with communicating on the floor. Then it’s competing and taking things away on the defensive end. That creates things on the offensive end a little bit. That creates trust and gets guys going. And we have to be five guys together at all times.”
Markieff Morris said his team’s struggles are perhaps a blessing in disguise, and will make the Lakers better in the long run based on where they want to be at the end of the season – back in the NBA Finals.
“It’s mental for us right now,” Morris said. “It shouldn’t be easy. We shouldn’t run through the season easy because need stuff like this to level us out, to know what our weaknesses are and to work on our weaknesses. You never win without having these types of lapses throughout the season.”
Lakers team captain LeBron James echoed those sentiments.
“It’s challenging for all of us,” James said. “Especially for some of our young guys, our guys that haven’t been in this position before where they need to do a little bit more than what they’re asked in a normal situation. … But it’s always about staying confident, continuing to give my teammates the courage and confidence out there on the floor and to make plays.
“It’s a tough stretch for us, but this won’t define who we are for the rest of the season and the long haul, that’s for sure.”