Anthony Davis plays the ball around Brandon Ingram at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. Image: Getty Images
Somehow, the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Pelicans are in different and similar situations at the same time. One big thing they have in common is an all-star caliber talent who will soon be back in action — Anthony Davis for the Los Angeles Lakers and Brandon Ingram for the Pelicans.
Darvin Ham told the media that Davis (stress fracture) participated in a full-contact scrimmage on Saturday – always the biggest hurdle for NBA players to overcome to return to the ground after injury – and said, he looks great. As of Tuesday night, the Pelicans are home for three straight games, and Ingram (bruised big toe) is optimistic that he returns to the ground during this stretch.
Postseason implications for both teams
The Lakers are currently the 12th seed in the Western Conference and are clinging fingertips to postseason hopes with a roster so thin that Austin Reeves’ injury severely impacts their depth. On Tuesday, the Lakers traded three second-round picks for Rui Hachimura to the Washington Wizards, and he’s arguably their third-best healthy player.
Near the top of the Western Conference reside the Pelicans, who currently own the fourth seed. Their roster depth is at sea floor level, with a long list of players that can cause matchup problems. Not only was Ingram injured for an extended period, so was Zion Williamson and Herbert Jones was in and out of the lineup all season. Still, the Pelicans have avoided falling into the play-in tournament portion of the standings.
While the Pelicans and Lakers are at opposite ends of the postseason spectrum, they are separated by just four games overall. There are five games separating the Pelicans from the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies.
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Who makes the playoffs?
The Lakers have also shown some courage in recent weeks. They’ve struggled to keep their season afloat by winning eight of their last 12 games, including a big game against the Grizzlies that was overshadowed by an angry Shannon Sharpe and his exquisite blue cardigan. However, they still have some losing streaks in several games below .500.
Ingram went under on November 30, but the Pelicans still managed to climb to the top of the Western Conference standings in mid-December. Williamson suffered a hamstring injury during a Jan. 2 game, and the Pelicans have won three games since then.
Part of the deal in a sport like the NBA is surviving stretches when key players miss a lot of time. Games will be lost, but teams with post-season ambitions need to find ways to get out of those stretches without losing too much ground. So far, these two teams have found it difficult, but not too far out of free fall in the overall standings.
On Tuesday night, the Lakers meet a healthy roster from the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Pelicans host the current Western Conference first seeders, the Denver Nuggets. Both teams will continue to compete, but while a win would be great, the best thing that can happen to either team this week is a fixed date for Davis and Ingram to return to the floor.