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LeBron James laid on his back and fixed his Lakers-themed magic band around his left wrist. He had just finished about 30 minutes of shooting from different angles and distances with assistant coach Phil Handy guarding him, cursing at himself when he missed.
As he laid on the court, he suddenly realized the Wizards had come out for their pregame shooting and started scooting himself across the floor by pedaling his legs on the ground in the direction of where the Lakers were shooting. Then he leaped up and jogged back toward his team.
James didn’t play in Monday afternoon’s scrimmage at the Visa Athletic center, and neither did Anthony Davis. Although their absences were planned in advance, Davis was also still dealing with the aftermath of being poked in the eye during Saturday’s game. Two other players sat out due to minor injuries – Kyle Kuzma with an ankle sprain and Dwight Howard with knee soreness. The Lakers also limited JaVale McGee and Danny Green to the first half to avoid overworking them before the seeding games begin.
The Lakers beat the Wizards 123-116 and at the final buzzer Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” played in the arena just as it would after a Lakers win in Staples Center. JR Smith led the team with 20 points, Dion Waiters added 18 and Alex Caruso scored 17 points.
“You look around at some of the other teams that have had guys out and still are just joining the bubble, half squads and all of those types of things,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “I feel good that we have all our guys here except for [Rajon] Rondo. Everybody is in shape to be ready for Thursday night. We’re working on our habits. A lot of the things have come back pretty quickly, but there’s still a lot to clean up."
The Lakers used their scrimmage games to work their players back into playing shape and also to get a better look at their team.
Vogel said Waiters and Smith earned rotational minutes by the way they played during the scrimmages. The team also got its first look at Markieff Morris in this setting. He played six minutes and grabbed five rebounds and scored two points. He pointed out after the scrimmage that Smith and Waiters had actually practiced more with the Lakers than he had.
“I’m just here to win,” Morris said. “Whatever’s needed of me, I want to give to the team. Coach always talks about me being tough, but I’m a little bit more than just tough. Whatever’s required of me I’m willing to do just to win.”
As the seeding games near, the Lakers are looking to the future. They’ll face the Clippers on Thursday, a team that hasn’t had its full roster yet in the bubble. Guard Lou Williams will still be serving a 10-day quarantine and will miss the game.
The Lakers will practice on Tuesday and Wednesday after taking Sunday off.
“Obviously with the off day yesterday, ‘Bron and AD and Kuz and Dwight not playing today, I’m going to want to make sure that those guys get some run in practice tomorrow to get some rhythm and conditioning without overdoing the guys that played today,” Vogel said. “But we’ll do some live work tomorrow, the day after that will be more of prep for the Clippers game and then we’ll be ready to go Thursday.”