Lakers have higher expectations than play-in tournament

The Lakers’ goal is to finish in the top six in the Western Conference and automatically secure a playoff berth.

Now, if the Lakers end up in the top 10 and are forced to play in the NBA’s play-in tournament, they would accept that too.

But after they had their first practice Wednesday after the All-Star break, Lakers coach Darvin Ham said the team has higher ambitions.

“Yeah, the goal is that we come out and try to be the best version of ourselves in every game, but if we can secure a spot that’s definitely our goal,” Ham said. “If we get into a play-in situation, so be it. But our #1 goal is to secure a spot [and] don’t just throw games away here or there [and] I just want one play-in. We want to secure a place.”

The Lakers are 13th in the West, 3½ games behind the Dallas Mavericks, who are in sixth place. The Lakers are two games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder, who hold the 10th place and would be last team if the playoffs started today.

Yes, the Lakers have a lot to do.

“I mean, we have to win,” said Anthony Davis. “Of course we have to hope that teams lose too. But we have to control what we can control, and that’s winning basketball games by going out and competing every night.

The Lakers will begin that journey Thursday night at Arena against the ninth-ranked Golden State Warriors in the West.

Then the Lakers made their way to games in Dallas, Memphis and Oklahoma City, all teams ahead of them overall.

They return home to face Minnesota, the Warriors again and the Grizzlies again – all teams ahead of them in the standings.

With 23 games remaining in the regular season, the Lakers have the opportunity to choose their own destiny.

At 27-32, the Lakers need to go the rest of the way to a 15-8 record to finish over .500 in the regular season.

Lakers center Mo Bamba exits the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Arena on February 15.

Lakers center Mo Bamba (22) exits the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Arena on February 15.

(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

“I mean we have to help ourselves first and foremost and we only do that by winning games,” Ham said. “…We’ve already backed the Eight enough. We don’t want to get into another situation where we have to rely on teams in front of us losing games and dropping games at the same time. So winning is the key, and that’s the only way we can help ourselves.”

LeBron James, who was given an extra day off by Ham and was not in practice Wednesday, said Sunday before the All-Star game that he was gearing up for “23 of the most important games of my career for a regular season.”

Ham said he agreed with James, who was listed as likely for the Warriors game due to pain in his left foot, that the coach said the team was “still getting by”. Ham also said the finger injury James suffered during the All-Star Game was “not a problem at all.”

“It’s what’s in front of him,” Ham said. “He’s done amazing things, had an amazing career — not just in basketball, not just in terms of our season, but just in life in general. That should be your mentality – what lies ahead. How do we deal with what lies ahead? That should always be the most important thing. Things that happened in the past – yesterday is over. We can’t bring it back. Nothing we say or do can change anything about yesterday. I have to be in the moment and look forward at all times.

The starting lineup Ham used in the Lakers’ final game before the All-Star Game against the Pelicans featured James, Davis, D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley and is expected to become the norm.

For Russell, one of the six players transferred from the Lakers last month, it’s “so easy” to play with James and Davis.

“I’ll probably say that every time, and you can edit any clips where I say how easy these guys are to play with,” Russell said. “But I’ve never played with that talent and that experience at the same time.” Lakers have higher expectations than play-in tournament

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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