Los Angeles Times

James expected back before the break

- By Broderick Turner

Lakers coach Dar vin Ham said that “in all likelihood,” LeBron James “should be available” to play against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night at Crypto.com Arena.

That was Ham’s expectatio­n Monday night after the Lakers’ 127115 loss at Portland. What James’ return will look like, with him playing for the first time with the new players the Lakers added through trades last week, is unknown.

James missed the last three games with left ankle soreness and could only watch newcomers D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley and Davon Reed try to incorporat­e themselves into the Lakers’ mix the last two games.

James officially was listed as questionab­le Tuesday for the Pelicans game, but when he does return, Russell acknowledg­ed, it’s hard to know what to expect when the NBA’s all-time leading scorer joins the new players.

“I don’t know what to anticipate. I haven’t played with him, so I don’t really know what I’m missing,” Russell said after Monday night’s loss. “Just me personally.

“So, for him, I just hope he’s been doing what he’s doing the last whatever [amount of] games. He’s been averaging 30 points. Our offense seems to be not the smoothest thing right now, so I think we get our offense flowing, it will lead to better shots and ... we’ll be in better position to guard on defense.”

Lakers need wins

The Lakers are six games below .500 at 26-32, stand 13th in the competitiv­e Western Conference and 21⁄2 games behind the 10th spot after Tuesday night’s games. They are five games out of the top five in the West.

With 24 games left in the regular season, the Lakers have enough time to make a run for a play-in game by finishing in the top 10. They also still have time to finish in the top six, which would give them an automatic berth in the playoffs.

However, the Lakers also know time is not on their side. They have only the Pelicans game remaining before the All-Star break, another game they really can’t afford to lose.

“Every team is saying, ‘If we could just win one more, two more ... we’re three games out … two games out,’ ” Russell said. “So, it’s just going to come down to actually doing it. Obviously, we got all the excuses in the world to use. Coach throws five guys out there and they’re prepared, we should have a chance. Simple as that. Whatever five, especially if I’m playing. I’ll do whatever it takes to try to give us a chance.

“So, we can’t dwell on it, but knowing that we have every excuse in the world to use, are we going to use it or are we going to just kind of go out there and try to make something happen? Guys’ energy is good. I think the energy is shifted right now and we’re figuring it out and we want it. So, we’ll see.”

Russell has perhaps the steepest learning curve among the new players.

He plays point guard — as does Dennis Schroder — and it’s up to Russell to run the offense and get others involved.

In his first two games with the Lakers, Russell averaged 15.5 points on 46.4% shooting, 27.3% on three-pointers, 5.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds.

“So, on a scale of one through 10, I’m a one right now,” he said. “I don’t know anything. I don’t know any [terminolog­y]. I’m just now learning the language that we use on defense. So, it’s not going to happen right away.

“As much as everybody are Laker fans in the world, they want it to happen right away. Just like any other team, you got to build. You got to go through ups and downs to kind of have something to build on going into the next game.”

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