Extra Pass: Lakers get crack at Bucks after Westbrook deal

Published February 9, 2023, 5:20 PMMiguel Flores

The Lakers will take on the Milwaukee Bucks a day after they reportedly shipped away Russell Westbrook.

What's up with the Los Angeles Lakers?

Losing games wherein LeBron James makes history and seismic trades – this has been the Lakers’ last two years.

Yesterday, LeBron etched himself in NBA history again, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the all-time leading scorer. The Lakers, though, ended up losing to OKC.

Today, they reportedly traded away Russell Westbrook, acquiring former Laker D’Angelo Russell, 3-point specialist Malik Beasley, and big man Jared Vanderbilt. This pretty much undid the Westbrook trade, in which they dealt Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - two players integral to their 2020 championship run - to the Wizards.

LeBron’s greatness and continuing climb up the steps of the NBA pantheon has mostly shadowed how disappointing this season has been for the Lakers. Aside from taking the all-time scoring crown, James also moved into fourth all-time in career assists, ninth in career steals and ninth career triples this season. The Lakers are 25-30 and stuck in the middle of the Western Conference.

Getting Anthony Davis healthy, as well as adding three players in their 20s who fill the Lakers’ weaknesses on offense and defense, should give the Lakers more hope of making the playoffs. Can they actually make a run to the title? It just got tougher with KD moving to Phoenix.

What's up with the Milwaukee Bucks?

The Bucks, compared to their fellow title contenders, have been dead silent. They have been involved in zero big trade rumors nor have their players caused a ruckus for being snubbed for an All-Star spot.

In fact, Milwaukee has flown under the radar adeptly, considering how much they’ve gone through to still wind up with a 37-17 record – the second best in the East and third best in the league.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is also making a great case for another MVP. In the last two weeks, the East’s top All-Star vote getter is averaging 38.7 points on 61.4 percent shooting with 14.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists. After all the hype with Jayson Tatum died down and after Kevin Durant’s injury, Giannis has grabbed the mantle of best in the East with only Joel Embiid being the only other player to have a claim.

With the exodus in Brooklyn, the East seems more wide open with Boston and Philadelphia being the only other teams with star power and the Miami Heat stumbling.

A healthy Milwaukee squad could be the most dangerous team. They’ve been the best defense in the league for the last month, but have struggled all season to stay consistent on offense. They rank 22nd in offensive rating for the season and most of that is due to injuries to their trio of Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton. The Bucks have enough talent to raise their level on that end. Facing a porous Lakers defense could give them all the encouragement they need.

Where to watch?

There really isn’t anything that’s going to match LeBron vs Giannis in tomorrow’s four-game slate. It’ll be interesting to see how the Cam Thomas-era Brooklyn Nets continue to develop, but Bucks-Lakers at 11:00 AM on NBA League Pass is where it’s at.