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In no world should being 13th feel so good. Still, there was an understandable sense of optimism inside the Lakers’ gym on Saturday from the third-worst team in the Western Conference.

While the Lakers have stumbled and stalled through the first half of the season, very few teams have found a consistent footing.

“We like the position we’re in,” Austin Reaves said Saturday. “We’re never satisfied with where we’re at because you want to win every game, but that was really the message at the end of practice. Let’s go for a run and get a good place.”

The Lakers have a chance to gain some momentum, albeit against some good teams, with six of their next seven games at home. Most importantly, things appear to be looking up for the injury-riddled Lakers, a group that includes Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV and is led by Anthony Davis.

“Lonnie is trending in the right direction, Austin is trending in the right direction, AD has looked really good. He was a little off the floor today,” coach Darwin Hamm said. “So we’re doing exactly what we want to do in terms of getting them back in line.”

It won’t be Sunday when the Lakers host Philadelphia, and it almost certainly won’t be Monday when they play the Rockets on back-to-back nights. But if the Lakers can continue to squeeze water, the conference’s middle pack is still strong enough to be in a decent enough position.

When the Lakers left practice on Saturday, they were just two games out of sixth place in the conference. They’re one game out of the playoffs, and with upcoming dates against Portland, Sacramento and the Clippers, there’s a real chance to make a move.

“If we can put some wins together and I think we’re playing good basketball, even with some of the L’s we’ve had,” LeBron James said. “As of the last few days, during the last few months. I feel like if we can continue to play the game the way we’ve been playing and then get healthy, that will put us in a good position to see what the standings look like.”

Getting healthy isn’t as difficult as it seemed a week ago.

Hamm said Davis has been able to do “minimal half-court” workouts as he continues to recover from a trio of leg injuries.

“Again, he’s moving well. He feels good. And we are excited,” Ham said. “He’s right where he’s supposed to be according to the plan that was put in place.”

Reeves has been doing one-on-one court work with assistant Phil Handy as he nears his return.

“A lot of people that I’ve talked to say that hamstrings are complicated, it goes up to 100%,” Reeves said. “I want to play every game obviously. Sitting out is no fun. I was absolutely freaking out in the backfield of the Dallas game. But, it is what it is. It’s part of sports, injuries. Just trying to get it back to 100 and get back as soon as possible.”

Reeves last played on Jan. 4 and is scheduled to be tested again next week. Walker, who has been out since Dec. 28, is also scheduled to be reevaluated soon.

Patrick Beverley, who missed the last game with an illness, is questionable for Sunday’s game against the 76ers.

“I mean, I always feel like we have a chance when we’re healthy. But it’s just … health is wealth. And that’s always been our thing,” James said. “So I feel like if we can get fully healthy and we can get our guys back, then we can start playing in games, logging minutes, doing what we’ve been doing, which is before Christmas break; I think we can put some wins together and be competitive against anybody.”

At the same time, there is still growing faith in the ability of filled players to make a difference.

“I think the biggest thing we’ve done is I think we’ve just, no matter who’s been in the lineup, the next guys have been absolutely ready,” James said. “No matter what the game was, no matter who was in and out. Injuries or illnesses or illnesses, suspensions or whatever, the next person was ready to go. …

“Just think guys just locked in to a point where it doesn’t matter if you’re playing or not, when your number is called, you’re ready to go.”

And the preferred direction, climbing the rankings, may not be as impossible as it once seemed.


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