The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of the pleasant surprises during the young 2016-17 NBA season, having staged several solid upsets and gotten off to a respectable 8-7 start. Unfortunately, that solid start could quickly be halted by some unfortunate news; star point guard D’Angelo Russell will miss the next 2-3 weeks with a knee injury:

Down Goes D-Lo

Russell had missed two of his last three games following a massive outing against Brooklyn Nets, where he poured in 32 points and hit seven three-pointers. D-Lo experienced soreness in his left knee shortly after, however, and was held out of two of his next three games and limited to just 23 minutes in an outing against the Chicago Bulls.

The Lakers have opted to take the cautionary route, and will reportedly hold their star point guard out for the next 2-3 weeks after undergoing platelet-rich plasma injections in his sore left knee.

Next Man Up

The D’Angelo Russell injury forces veteran point guard Jose Calderon into the starting lineup and could sap the Lakers badly on the offensive end. Calderon seeing any serious action is a negative for the Lakers, who already struggle immensely on defense and only get worse in that regard by losing Russell.

Calderon can still hold his own offensively, as evidenced by his 12 points in a surprise win on Tuesday night over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It’s not Calderon that was be tasked with shouldering Russell’s departing scoring load, of course. That job goes to the Lakers’ bench, which has consistently been among the best in the entire league. Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson have both fared well in bench roles and should see their minutes (and shots) only spike with D’Angelo Russell hitting the sidelines.

Fellow starters Luol Deng, Julius Randle, Nick Young and Timofey Mozgov could also be asked to play a little more than usual and also help offensively.

Rough Stretch

The D’Angelo Russell injury news comes at a bad time, as the 8-7 Lakers enter a back-to-back set against the Golden State Warriors, followed by contests with the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans and Chicago Bulls to close out November.

That alone is a troubling stretch, as the Warriors will be tough to even compete without one of their top scorers, while the Hawks have proven to be one of the better defensive squads in the NBA and both games versus the Pels and Bulls will be on the road.

It doesn’t get a whole lot easier come early December, either, with dates against the Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets all looming over the first seven days of December.

While the Lakers could still end up competing and possibly even get some wins during that stretch, that’s just two weeks of their schedule that looks awfully tough. Naturally, with one less scorer and distributor to lean on, they could be hard-pressed to maintain the current win/loss pace they’ve started the season with.

Betting on Lakers

If you’re thinking of betting on the Lakers this season, it’s obviously not for them to make an epic leap to NBA Finals contenders in one season. Their +6600 NBA Finals odds are kind of fun, but even with improved play, they aren’t profitable enough to truly consider.

That being said, the Lakers have proven to be a very deep, balanced and competitive bunch under rookie head coach Luke Walton. They play a fun brand of basketball and seem to be getting better by the game. They are still a shaky bet even when they’re 100%, however.

With D’Angelo Russell out during a very tough stretch of their schedule, betting against the Lakers is going to be the logical move. They could still be a dangerous team going forward, but until Russell gets back, we’d refrain on going hard at them too often.

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