It's been a turbulent week for the Lakers, with trade deadline frustrations hitting them hard. Can they channel their emotions into a performance at Philadelphia? Mark Kirwan previews....
"The Pacers loss is the worst defeat a team with LeBron James in the line-up has ever suffered. The home crowd started chanting "LeBron's gonna trade you" as Brandon Ingram stepped up to the free throw line, while the images of James, the de facto General Manager of the team, sitting alone at the end of the bench as Indiana piled on the points said something about how his teammates felt about it all."
Deadline turmoil rumbles on
LA Lakers @ Philadelphia 76ers
Live on Sky Sports Arena
The trade deadline came and went and Anthony Davis is still a Pelican. It's not for the want of Laker efforts.
Their front office plus LeBron put everything they've got on the table in an effort to attract the second star they're supposed to sign, but it flopped. The theory going around is New Orleans execs, irked by perceived tampering with their MVP-level asset, led the Lakers to believe they were interested in a trade, but only did so to sew seeds of discontent in Southern California.
So I asked @WindhorstESPN if the Pels ever intended to seriously engage with LA on Anthony Davis, or if all the talks & leaks were instead designed to sabotage the young Lakers as revenge for what N.O. sees as tampering, & he said "it's not just possible, it's what happened." pic.twitter.com/wki2hDPaEs? Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) February 7, 2019
That plan seemed to have worked when LA's effort levels sunk through the floor of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Tuesday in a 42-point loss. The Pacers loss is the worst defeat a team with LeBron James in the line-up has ever suffered. The home crowd started chanting "LeBron's gonna trade you" as Brandon Ingram stepped up to the free throw line, while the images of James - the de facto General Manager of the team - sitting alone at the end of the bench as Indiana piled on the points said something about how his teammates felt about it all.
But then, what does the last second win two nights later at Boston say? If we're buying into the cratering locker room morale story, where does Rajon Rondo's first career last-second winner fit? LeBron's turned over rosters before, he's upset teammates, he's generated plenty of heat, and still he's gone to the last eight NBA Finals series.
Sure, you can't be too happy if you're one of the "young core" that has been talked up previously only to be used as ballast in a potential deal for Davis, but, if you'd remained on the roster with AD in LA, your chances of winning a championship would've improved a lot.
Talk of titles is premature for the LeBron Lakers now though. Making the playoffs and being competitive will be enough this season.
They should manage the first step. Their Los Angeles rivals, the Clippers, have all but guaranteed the eighth spot (at least) turns Purple and Gold by trading away Tobias Harris and Boban Marjanovic to the Sixers. Philly also moved on from Markelle Fultz, and brought in James Ennis from Houston.
There's a lot going on, but what it tells us is 76ers are all-in on a championship run this season. They've added Harris, the Clippers best scorer, to be their fourth starter behind Embiid, Simmons and Butler. That's depth.
Harris' debut against Denver gave a glimpse of what the Sixers fans have been hoping for through the years of the Process. A win over one of the West's best shows their Eastern ambitions aren't without foundation, whatever about the effort it will take to knock off the Warriors in the finals.
For now, yes, we can assume it'll be GSW.
This is the Lakers' fifth of six straight road games, and they'll be hoping for another shock win. Despite being frustrated by New Orleans in the trade market, they did make some moves, bringing in Mike Muscala and Reggie Bullock, who add greater shooting to their line-up at the expense of some younger talent. Both are expected to make their bows tonight, and while trades always make it difficult to assess a game, LA's recent record still suffers because of LeBron's absence. He's back now and I would expect him to keep his team in contention in this one. I would take the Lakers +7 on the handicap at [1.91].
Mavericks on a high
Portland Trail Blazers @ Dallas Mavericks
Live on Betfair Video
You can still almost feel the warm glow emanating from the Mavs following the Porzingis deal, even if the Latvian won't play a game this season. They were able to swing the move because they've taken on a lot of money from other former Knicks, but Tim Hardaway isn't exactly a deadweight, and assuming he remains on their books for the next couple of years, he can contribute.
If the Mavs were in the East they'd probably be challenging for a playoff spot on their current form. They're 5-3 in their last eight but have gone 7-1-1 in nine on the spread. The sole entry in the L column there was the last game they played, against the best-record-holding Bucks, and Luka Doncic was hurt in that. He is expected to play tonight.
The Blazers made some moves of their own, but nothing like the Mavs. Rodney Hood was added and gives them some more shooting. They didn't need to do as much, standing fourth in the West, though you still wonder if it'll be another season where they disappoint come playoff time.
They've won 10 of 14 and have covered in as many too. The line here has been set at 2. Dallas have covered in 10 of the last 13 meetings with Portland, they're 9-2 on home court against tonight's opponent and have the second best home record in the league on the spread. Take Dallas +2 at [1.91].
Hawks can snare Magic
Orlando Magic @ Atlanta Hawks
Live on Betfair Video
These two were both in action last night. The Magic were treated to Milwaukee stroll as the Bucks' star man Giannis Antetokounmpo sat with a sore knee, and they took advantage, beating the home team by 20 points.
That helps them in the East. They're still, in theory, in with a shot of a playoff spot, lying 2.5 games out of the eighth seed, but there are three other teams with their eyes on it too, and Orlando's inconsistency wouldn't fill you with confidence. They'd won three of their last four prior to the Bucks game but were 4-10 over a longer stretch.
The trade for Fultz can be spun as a positive though. They've got a recent first overall pick at a discount. If he can ever get near his potential, the deal will look cheap.
The Hawks are just one spot back from Orlando, but they're not even entertaining a postseason notion. Still, they've seen some steady recent form, going 4-4 up to last night's loss against Charlotte. They're winning against teams around their level, which is encouraging, and that is exactly who Orlando are.
Despite last night's surprise win, I'm inclined to give Atlanta the benefit of the doubt here, especially with them playing at home while Orlando must travel. They've also won 15 of the last 19 meetings between the two teams in Atlanta. I would take them to win an even contest at [2.12].
1pt on LA Lakers +7 @ [1.91] on the Exchange
1pt on Dallas Mavericks +2 @ [1.91] on the Exchange
1pt on Atlanta Hawks Moneyline @ [2.12] on the Exchange