untitled-design-2021-03-30t165918-941.png
USATSI

The Los Angeles Lakers can't catch a break. After just finally getting stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis healthy and back out on the floor following extended injury absences for both players, the team will now be without another key contributor for a period of time. Lakers guard Dennis Schroder is expected to miss 10-to-14 days due to the NBA's health and safety protocols, according to Shams Charania and Bill Oram of The Athletic. Schroder entered protocols on Sunday, which is when his return timeline began. 

The loss of Schroder comes at a terrible time for the Lakers, who have dropped three straight, and seven of their past 10 games. They also watched LeBron aggravate his ankle sprain Sunday night, which will cost him at least one game. They're also in the midst of a tight battle for postseason positioning in the Western Conference. As it currently stands, the Lakers are in a three-way tie for the fifth seed with the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers. With the way the standings are shaping up, two of those teams will finish fifth and sixth in seeding, earning automatic playoff berths, while the other one will finish seventh and in turn have to participate in the play-in tournament. As the defending champions, the Lakers would obviously like to avoid the play-in tournament and the extra game(s) that comes with it. 

James has already expressed his distaste for the tournament, stating that whoever came up with the idea should be fired. "That's wack," James said of the play-in tournament. "You've got to earn your spot to be in the postseason. No consolation for finishing last. That's corny."

James may not like the play-in tournament, but having to play in it is a real possibility for the Lakers now, especially since they'll be without Schroder for their crucial final stretch. Schroder has started in all 59 games that he has played in for the Lakers this season, and he's averaging 15.5 points, 5.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 32.2 minutes per performance. That production will be tough for the Lakers to replace as the team will likely turn to Alex Caruso in Schroder's absence. 

The Lakers have an extremely tough stretch of games coming up, beginning with a matchup against the Nuggets on Monday night. They will then play the Clippers on Thursday night, the top-seeded Suns on Sunday and then host the Knicks next Tuesday. How they fare over that stretch will go a long way toward determining where they finish in the postseason picture in the West.