Somehow the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans are simultaneously in different and similar situations. One major commonality they share is all-star caliber talent due to soon return to action — Anthony Davis for the Los Angeles Lakers and Brandon Ingram for the Pelicans.
Darvin Ham told the media that Davis (stress fracture) participated in a full contact scrimmage on Saturday— always the tallest hurdle for NBA players to clear in returning to the floor after injury — and said he looked great. Beginning Tuesday night, the Pelicans are at home for three consecutive games, and Ingram (big toe contusion) is optimistic that he will return to the floor during this stretch.
Postseason implications for both teams
The Lakers are currently the 12th seed in the Western Conference and clinging to postseason hopes by their fingertips with a roster so thin that Austin Reeves’ injury is significantly affecting their depth. On Tuesday, the Lakers traded three second-round picks to the Washington Wizards for Rui Hachimura, and he is arguably their third-best healthy player.
Near the top of the Western Conference is where the Pelicans reside, currently possessing the fourth seed. Their roster depth is at ocean-floor level, with a long list of players who can provide matchup problems. Not only has Ingram been injured for an extended period of time, but so has Zion Williamson, and Herbert Jones has been in and out of the lineup all season. Yet, the Pelicans have still avoided falling into the play-in tournament portion of the standings.
While the Pelicans and Lakers are on different ends of the postseason spectrum, they are only separated in the standings by four games. There are five games separating the Pelicans from the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies.
Who makes the playoffs?
The Lakers have also shown some grit in recent weeks. They have fought to keep their season afloat winning eight of their last 12 games, including a big one against the Grizzlies that was overshadowed by an angry Shannon Sharpe and his exquisite blue cardigan. However, a couple of losing streaks still have them multiple games under .500.
Ingram went down on Nov. 30, but the Pelicans were still able to rise to the top of the Western Conference standings in mid-December. Williamson went down with a hamstring injury during a game on Jan. 2, and the Pelicans have won three games since.
Part of the deal in a grind of a sport like the NBA is getting through stretches when key players miss significant time. Games will be lost, but teams with postseason aspirations must find ways to come out of those stretches without losing too much ground. So far these two teams, while it has been a struggle, have managed to keep from free falling too far in the standings.
On Tuesday night, the Lakers take on a healthy Los Angeles Clippers squad, and the Pelicans host the current first-place team in the Western Conference, the Denver Nuggets. Both squads will continue to compete, but while a win would be great, the best thing that can happen to both teams this week is a firm date set on when Davis and Ingram can return to the floor.