As the NBA playoffs near closer, the doubt around the LA Lakers‘ title chances looms large. Star forward LeBron James‘ recent injury setback further fuels that overwhelming concern. LA now may have another reason to worry about James as they press toward another championship push.
LeBron James suffers injury setback
LeBron James returned to the lineup last week after spending 41 days sidelined due to an ankle injury.
James played only two games before suffering a setback against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night. The 36-year-old exited midway through the fourth quarter after reaggravating the ailment.
Since then, the Lakers have ventured the precautionary route with the four-time league MVP. According to The Athletics‘ Shams Charania, James isn’t expected to be back in the lineup until next week.
LA continues to play the situation close to the vest without many details concerning the extent of the setback. However, head coach Frank Vogel indicated on Wednesday that the team isn’t dealing with “ideal” parameters regarding James’ health.
“We’ll see. It’s not an ideal situation,” Vogel said. “Ideally, he’s 100% and has 10 games to get his legs and timing under him. We’re not going to have that situation. So we’re going to make the best of it.”
Another concerning wrinkle has quickly emerged that could heavily impact the Lakers’ NBA title chances.
A concerning detail about LeBron James could derail the Lakers’ title defense
James suffering a setback draws lingering doubt over his effectiveness upon his expected return.
The star forward will be back in the coming days, but the physical state of his ankle isn’t near where he hoped. According to ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, James will have to play through pain in the playoffs.
“I think [LeBron] is going to try to play again in the regular season.,” Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s Get Up on Wednesday morning. “He probably can’t get [the ankle] fully healthy until the offseason. He’s going to have to play with discomfort in the playoffs.”
James may have had nearly six weeks to recover, but it’s not enough time to perform without any lingering pain. An offseason to allow his body to rest will give him the full recovery he requires.
In the meantime, James will have to exercise his high pain tolerance threshold to push through the playoffs. The only remaining question for the Lakers is how can they lessen that discomfort ahead of the postseason without falling into the play-in tournament.
LA holds tough challenge ahead in the playoffs
The Lakers’ steady slide down the Western Conference standings has created doubt around their NBA title chances.
James’ latest injury struggles only further fuel the concerns beyond the team’s recent shortcomings. With six games left in the regular season, LA is in danger of falling into the playoff play-in tournament.
There also remains a prevalent worry that the remaining slate of games before the playoffs won’t provide James enough time to get his legs under him. However, there is the positive with seeing Anthony Davis beginning to turn a corner physically.
Monday’s win over the Denver Nuggets, he played arguably his best game since returning to action. Davis looked spry on both ends of the floor, including covering a tremendous amount of ground to record the game-sealing block.
Ultimately, the Lakers will only go as far as their stars take them, and that daunting challenge lies ahead.