Lakers Search for Answers, With and Without LeBron James

Before the start of the N.B.A. season, LeBron James acknowledged one of the hard realities facing the Los Angeles Lakers. The team had once again rebuilt its roster in pursuit of a championship, and James said he knew that forming chemistry would be a process, that nothing would come easily — at least not right away. James illustrated his point by making an analogy.

“I don’t think it’s going to be like peanut butter and jelly to start the season,” he said in September.

James seemed to be carefully managing expectations rather than hyping them up after the Lakers acquired Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and several other aging stars. The Lakers had the potential for boom or bust as one of the league’s most curious experiments.

Sure enough, a quarter of the way through the season, they are not exactly making sandwiches.

The latest obstacle for the Lakers surfaced on Tuesday when the team said that James had entered the N.B.A.’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, which apply to players who have tested positive or potentially been exposed to someone who has. The Lakers declined to comment when asked whether James had tested positive for the virus, but after the team defeated the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night without James, the Lakers’ Anthony Davis made comments that could suggest that he had.

“Scary situation,” Davis told reporters. “He’s said he’s good. I think he’s asymptomatic, which is a good sign. We want to make sure that he gets back. Health is most important. It’s bigger than basketball.”

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