LeBron James’ Injury is a Blessing in Disguise as Russell Westbrook Integrates Into Lakers Lineup

The Los Angeles Lakers are beginning to find their stride, winning five out of their last six games. However, star forward LeBron James will miss at least a week due to an abdominal injury. It marks a significant blow but may be a blessing in disguise for Russell Westbrook.

LeBron James will miss at least one week due to abdominal strain

In the hours before Thursday’s contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers declared the four-time league MVP out, marking his third missed game this season.

Things took another disappointing turn as ESPN‘s Dave McMenamin reported that the 36-year-old would miss at least a week due to an abdominal strain. He aggravated the injury in Tuesday’s win over the Houston Rockets, where he finished with a double-double behind game-highs of 30 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 13-of-21 from the field.

In his 19th campaign, James is averaging 24.8 points while shooting 46.7%, the lowest percentage since his rookie year. He’s posted four games with at least 20 points and a pair of double-doubles while shooting above 45% three times.

Meanwhile, James is still working through a bothersome leg injury that occurred on Oct. 24 after Memphis Grizzlies forward Desmond Bane tumbled into his right ankle. The Lakers are hoping the extended absence will allow the 17-time All-Star to move past the nagging ailment.

After Thursday’s game against the Thunder, the Lakers play the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. Los Angeles then holds three straight home games, the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, Miami Heat on Wednesday, and Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

With James sidelined for an extended stretch, it opens the door for another Lakers star to shine.

LeBron James’ injury is a blessing in disguise as Russell Westbrook integrates into Lakers lineup

James‘ injury is a significant blow, but it presents a golden opportunity for the team’s headlining offseason addition.

In his first campaign in Los Angeles, Russell Westbrook has experienced a rough adjustment as he’s averaging 19.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 8.5 assists while shooting 44.5% from the floor and 21.9% from beyond the arc. Although he’s struggling from 3-point range, he’s finding more consistency offensively, posting 20 or more points in four out of the last five contests.

With James sidelined, it presents an extended offensive role for Westbrook to fill the massive void. He’s already dealt with the star forward sidelined this season, averaging 26.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 10.5 assists while shooting 48.9% from the floor and 25% from beyond the arc in those two instances.

Westbrook will garner more comfort leading the offense, while the increased temporary role will give him more footing in the game plan. In other words, he will have a more significant impact as a ball-handler along with further building chemistry playing alongside Anthony Davis.

The Lakers need Westbrook to play within himself to provide a bonafide third offensive weapon. Regardless of how many games James misses, the Lakers need the star guard to find his role within the offense.

Lakers must remain patient with the process

Westbrook’s opportunity aside, the Lakers sit amid the transition process to finding their identity.

Los Angeles will need James healthy along with Kendrick Nunn, Talen Horton-Tucker, and Dwight Howard back to determine the proper roster rotations. The team possesses a deep roster, but the team chemistry remains a work in progress.

The Lakers hold plenty of time ahead to figure it out, but the clock is ticking.

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