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Lakers Players Remain Unfazed About the Future as Trade Deadline Approaches

Los Angeles Lakers players D'Angelo Russell and LeBron James both expressed a focus on their current roster and the need to continue performing their respective roles until any potential changes occur.
Anna Ciao
By: Anna Ciao

In a basketball equivalent of the teacher signaling the end of a test, the Los Angeles Lakers secured a 124-118 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, improving their record to 27-25. With the trade deadline approaching on Thursday, the Lakers now eagerly await any potential changes to their team.

The win against the Hornets ensured a successful 4-2 road trip for the Lakers and extended their winning streak to three games. This is the longest streak they have achieved since winning four consecutive games in early December, which included clinching the championship in the in-season tournament held in Las Vegas.

While victories over formidable opponents like the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks provided encouragement, the Lakers' triumph against the Hornets required resilience to fend off a late surge from a young and pressure-free opponent. Throughout the day, Lakers' Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager, Rob Pelinka, remained occupied with trade discussions, according to a team source cited by ESPN.

If any deals come to fruition, the Lakers' roster could undergo significant changes before they take the court again on Thursday night against the defending champions, the Denver Nuggets.

Despite their impressive run to the Western Conference finals last season, the Los Angeles Lakers currently find themselves in the 9th spot in the West. To secure a spot in the playoffs and avoid the play-in tournament, they need to catch up to the 6th-seeded Phoenix Suns, who are three games ahead with 30 games remaining in the season.

The Lakers have been dealing with challenges on the injury front, as their key point-of-attack defender, Jarred Vanderbilt, has been diagnosed with a right midfoot sprain that will sideline him for at least the next three to four weeks. Additionally, their backup point guard, Gabe Vincent, continues to be sidelined with a knee injury after appearing in just five games this season.

With these undeniable obstacles and the team's overall rankings of 20th in offense and 14th in defense, LeBron James was asked whether he believes the current roster is capable of winning a championship or if changes are necessary. James responded by expressing his trust and admiration for his teammates in the locker room, emphasizing that he focuses solely on the group they have.

James stated, "I love who we have in the locker room. And that's all I worry about." He further asserted that the team will approach every game with preparation and determination, regardless of the circumstances or who is available to play.

In Monday's game, James played a pivotal role in securing the win, contributing 26 points on an efficient 12-for-22 shooting, which included several powerful dunks. The only player to outscore James in the game was D'Angelo Russell, who led the Lakers with 28 points and also provided six assists.

In recent weeks, D'Angelo Russell's name has emerged in trade discussions involving teams such as the Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, and Atlanta Hawks, according to sources cited by ESPN. Despite the ongoing speculation, Russell has been performing exceptionally well on the court, showcasing some of the best basketball of his career.

Over his last 16 games, Russell has averaged 22.2 points on 46.3% shooting (including an impressive 44.9% from beyond the arc), along with 2.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game. During this stretch, the Lakers have achieved a record of 10 wins and 6 losses.

When asked about how he plans to handle the trade speculation leading up to the deadline, Russell expressed his indifference, stating, "I don't care. At all. Show up to work. That's it."

He further alluded to the fact that his $17.3 million contract, which includes a player option for $18.7 million next season, makes him an attractive asset in potential trade scenarios due to his size and versatility.

Russell acknowledged, "I mean, I can't control that my contract makes sense to be traded, either. So, I mean, just play. You can't control that. Once again, I don't care. At all."

During the offseason, Russell had the opportunity to include an implied no-trade clause in his contract when he re-signed with the Lakers. However, he and his agent chose to waive that stipulation, leading to the current situation.

When asked to explain his decision to waive the no-trade clause, Russell did not provide further details or reasoning.

"I just thought it made sense," Russell said. "Obviously I've been here before, I played for the Lakers before, so I know what the requirements are to be successful here are. So, if you're part of the future here you'll be successful. If you're not, you'll get traded. And I've been traded before here. So, my approach is just a little different.

"I really just genuinely, humbly don't care because I know I can't control it, one. And, two, I just won't allow my mind to go there. I like to focus on this and you guys see how I've been focusing on basketball and not comments and what's trending on social."

Despite any potential challenges or differences in their play this season, both D'Angelo Russell and LeBron James displayed a unified perspective in Charlotte.

Both players emphasized the importance of focusing on their roles and responsibilities on the team, maintaining a business-as-usual approach until any changes occur.

LeBron James expressed his acceptance of the current roster, stating, "This is who we have. So there's nothing else to talk about."

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Anna Ciao
Written by: Anna Ciao
Anna Ciao is a sports content contributor at Betimate. Born and raised in a rural village in China, I have had a passion for football and various sports such as basketball, volleyball, badminton, from a young age. Along with diligent studies, I achieved an IELTS score of 8.0 in the English language, and I have become a content contributor specializing in sports, particularly football, as I am today. I hope that my articles are helpful to readers.

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