The Lakers are back from their one game jaunt to Denver to face the Hawks in Los Angeles. The game brings the team back to the comforts of home, but with injury questions and rotations to sort out due to suspect health on the wing. Lou Williams is already out, Kobe and Jordan Clarkson are questionable due to a sore shoulder and knee strain, respectively.
My guess is that both play, though limited minutes and caution will be heeded with both. Clarkson doesn’t need to push it, even if he is young and likely able to play through some discomfort. Kobe, on the other hand, is pushing towards a larger goal of closing his final NBA season able to actually suit up and play. This is complicated and most be handled delicately enough to get him to the finish line, while also giving him a chance to play in contests on terms which reflect his values of wanting to give fans who come to see him play a chance to do just that.
I’d speculate on what this means for tonight, but, in all honesty, I do not think it matters. The Hawks aren’t where they probably would like to be at this point in the year, but they are much better than the Lakers and should win this game regardless of who is healthy/not or available to play/not. This is nothing against Clarkson or Kobe or Nance Jr. (who will return to the lineup tonight after sitting out against the Nuggets), but is just a statement of fact about general team quality on both sides.
That I do not think the Lakers win this game isn’t really why this game is worth watching, however. As Russell has shown us with his recent play, individual growth, strong play, and how matchups between young players and peers/more established veterans all offer some meaning as the season comes to a close.
With that, Russell facing off against Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder is worth watching. Seeing how Randle and Nance Jr. do against Paul Millsap and Al Horford is something to key on. Can Anthony Brown stay connected defensively with Kyle Korver? All of these matchups and games within the game are worth your time, even if how the scoreboard reads at the end isn’t like to be in the Lakers’ favor.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on TWC Sportsnet and nationally on ESPN. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.