The Lakers continued their early-season NBA pattern of taking two steps forward followed by one giant step backward in Friday’s loss to Minnesota, but the disappointment of dropping a home game to a young team that had lost seven of 10 games to start the season was offset, to an extent at least, by the pregame news that LeBron James could be back on the floor sooner rather than later.
James last appeared for the Lakers on November 2 and has been out as he recovers from an abdominal muscle injury. There was some concern that James might be out for an extended period of time, but in recent days, it has appeared that those concerns were unfounded.
Coach Frank Vogel said that James has returned to practice and is now day-to-day as far as his return. The Lakers play on Sunday afternoon against the Spurs and on Monday against Chicago.
“LeBron, his rehab is progressing nicely,” Vogel said. “He’s back to doing on-the-court basketball activity. This does not seem like it’s going to be an extended stretch. He’s to be considered truly day-to-day.”
James is averaging 24.7 points, 7.0 assists and 5.5 rebounds this season. The Lakers are 4-2 when he plays, and 3-4 when he does not.
LeBron Has Been Trending Toward a Return
Vogel’s announcement came a day after ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that James would not be out for long. Windhorst suggested that James could probably return to play now, but that because of his age (he’ll be 37 next month) and wear-and-tear on his body from the sheer number of minutes played in his career, James is taking things easy here in the early going.
Here’s how Windhorst put it:
Yeah, this is not a severe injury. He is rehabbing this, and from what I am told, the rehab is going well. He may have to do some reconditioning a little bit, but this is not going to keep him out an extended period. He definitely has shown his age with some of these muscle injuries, there’s no doubt about that. This is not something that is going to dramatically impact his ability.
And it’s coming at a portion of the schedule with the Lakers where it’s not that difficult. They haven’t done great, I agree, but this is a time where if you’re going to nurse an injury, this is that time of the season, and that’s what LeBron is doing.
James Needed Summer to Recover From Ankle Injury
Certainly, the Lakers would rather deal with health issues from James now rather than in the spring as they did last season. The Lakers, remember, were 28-13 last season when James suffered a high ankle sprain in a game against the Hawks in March. James tried to return late in the season, but the Lakers still closed by going 14-17 after he got hurt, dropping them into the NBA’s play-in tournament and setting up a matchup against the No. 2 seeded Phoenix Suns.
The Lakers were ousted from that series in six games. James said the impact of that injury lasted into the offseason.
“It took a while,” he said, per ABC Los Angeles. “I didn’t do much basketball stuff for probably the first two months of the summer, which is very rare for me, because my ankle wasn’t responding how I would like it to respond. I had time to just really get ready when my ankle was ready to go. I was always training, just wasn’t on the basketball court much. Always doing other stuff, training, pushing, seeing if I could do other stuff with my ankle, and until I got to a point where I didn’t feel any sharp pains anymore, and my flexibility was back to where it was before. That’s when I knew I could get back on the floor.”