However, James was not just absent from the court on Thursday during a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. He was also missing from the sideline, an unusual sight considering he traveled with the team while he was injured previously. James was also away from the team against the Nuggets earlier in the week.
When asked about why James wasn’t with the team, head coach Frank Vogel offered little detail, saying there was no medical reason for the absence.
“LeBron’s just not here,” Vogel said. “He won’t be with us in Portland but he’ll rejoin the team after that.”
After some slight panic setting in, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported that James’ injured ankle was indeed what was keeping him secluded.
“LeBron James’ absences from the Nuggets and Clippers games were considered excused by the Lakers to allow James time to ‘stay off the ankle’ a source with knowledge of the situation tells ESPN,” McMenamin tweeted.
LeBron James Taking More Time to Get Ankle Healthy
James missed 20 games with the high ankle sprain and he’s set to miss more time to get right for the postseason. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that James is expecting to be out until next week, likely giving him four games — all parts of back-to-backs — during the final week of the regular season to measure his readiness:
Sources tell me LeBron is aiming to return to the Lakers lineup next week. I’m told the likely return scenario is Tuesday or Wednesday when the Lakers play the Knicks and Rockets at home. The Lakers and James won’t rush his return from this sore right ankle. They’ll make sure that when he does return, he’s as close to 100% as possible.
The Lakers have been banged up for most of the season and that’s no different as the year winds down. Joining James on the pine is starting point guard Dennis Schroder (health and safety protocols) and Talen Horton-Tucker (calf strain).
LeBron James Hinted He Came Back ‘Too Early’
James exited the loss against the Raptors over the weekend and did not return. It was his second game back and in his postgame press conference, he hinted that he might have come back too soon.
“Last two games at halftime after the break, it’s gotten a little sore on me, a little tight and obviously, coach decided not to put me back in towards the end because of that,” James said. “My thing is I need to be healthy and I need to make sure my ankle is where it was before, obviously before the injury.
“I don’t want to say I came back too early, but at the end of the day, I had to test it out and see where I was at.”
James is averaging 25 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.8 assists this season. The Lakers are just 8-14 this season when he hasn’t played.
The Lakers are currently the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, jostling with Portland and Dallas for position. The Lakers are tied with the No. 7 seed Trail Blazers at 37-29 and one game back of the No. 5 Mavericks. The key for the defending champs is to stay out of the No. 7 spot, which would mean they’d take part in the play-in tournament.