The long and painful wait for Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James to return from injury is drawing near. While the hope was that he’d return against the Phoenix Suns or Philadelphia 76ers, that proved to not be the case. Fortunately, the outlook is slowly but surely beginning to improve, and the latest chatter points to a return potentially coming very soon.
Ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Lakers coach Luke Walton spoke on LeBron’s status and how he’s looked in the return to practice. As ESPN’s Dave McMenamin revealed, Walton stated that he’s moving well and doesn’t seem to be in pain after the groin injury suffered on Christmas Day.
“I don’t think he’s going full out yet. Haven’t really seen him drive the lane and tomahawk dunk on anyone but he’s moving, he’s moving well and he’s getting up and down the court & he’s shooting well. He doesn’t look like he’s hurting at all when he moves” McMenamin tweeted.
This is great news, but even going one step beyond that, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk revealed a report from McMenamin which pointed to James possibly returning on Thursday. This would come against the Los Angeles Clippers and marks the team’s final game at the Staples Center (technically a road game) before a five-game road trip to head into the All-Star break.
A source familiar with James’ rehab told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin that the Lakers are “hoping” James could return to game action against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday at Staples Center. “Depends on these next couple of days,” the source said.
LeBron’s Instagram Post Teasing Return
The Lakers star let the world know that his return was near, but opted to do so by taking to social media. Just prior to Walton’s comments about his on-court work, James posted a photo on Instagram at practice while stating: “Almost that time again! I’ve missed you so damn much!”
This had Lakers fans understandably excited about the return but they were forced to wait least one more game. While James didn’t get to square off with his friend Ben Simmons and the Sixers, we’ll tentatively circle Thursday’s game and mark it as the “hopeful” date for his return.
Lakers’ Struggles With James Sidelined
After the Lakers pulled off the upset against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas following James leaving mid-game, they’ve had trouble keeping the ball rolling. Not including Tuesday’s matchup with the Sixers, LeBron has missed 16 games and the team has posted a 6-10 record in that stretch.
The Lakers haven’t caught many breaks on the injury front, as Rajon Rondo missed 14 games due to a thumb injury. Beyond that, Kyle Kuzma (hip) has missed back-to-back games including Thursday while Lonzo Ball is expected to miss more than a month due to an ankle injury.