Any hope for LeBron James playing the full 82 games was dashed away as quickly as a Russell Westbrook turnover in transition. King James has been nursing a sore ankle, missing the Los Angeles Lakers‘ last two games. While LA survived one game without him but burst into flames in another, the latest news is optimistic. And, as a bonus, LeBron’s anticipated return could see him going head-to-head with the franchise that made him a star.
LeBron James has an ankle injury
Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Lakers had plenty of reason to celebrate. Thanks to 28 points from Carmelo Anthony and another 22 from Anthony Davis, the Purple and Gold avoided an 0-3 start by defeating the Grizzlies 121-118. But off to the side, James was concerned about the status of his ankle.
In the third quarter, Memphis guard Desmond Bane fell on LeBron’s right leg, subsequently toppling over the Laker star. James held his leg in pain while being attended to by LA’s training staff for several moments. Fortunately, the four-time MVP popped back up and stayed in the game. The King wound up scoring 19 points while chipping in six rebounds and six assists in a game-high 40 minutes of action.
“It’s a little sore right now,” James told the Los Angeles Times after the game. “And obviously I think it’s gonna be a little sore tomorrow when I wake up.”
Sure enough, Dr. LeBron’s self-diagnosis was spot on. After an initial ‘probable’ listing, James was downgraded to questionable Tuesday afternoon. By the evening, he was ruled out for LA’s matchup against the San Antonio Spurs. One night later, with him and Davis both questionable, LBJ missed his second straight contest.
It’s understandable to see James and the Lakers exercise caution when it comes to his ankles. James missed 27 of a possible 72 games last season due in large part to a high ankle sprain. The cause of the injury was eerily similar to Sunday’s incident, as Atlanta Hawks forward Solomon Hill fell into James’ leg and caused the 6-foot-9 superstar to crumble to the floor.
Reports say LeBron could return on Friday
Any Lakers fan would gladly admit they’d choose a healthy postseason LeBron over a healthy October LeBron. But with the team at 2-3, those same fans wouldn’t mind seeing #6 return to action soon.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski appeared on NBA Today to give the latest update on James. And it’s certainly a positive one if you’re a fan of the Purple and Gold.
“I’m told there’s some optimism LeBron James will be able to return to the Lakers’ lineup Friday against the Cavaliers. … There’s optimism the sore ankle — it certainly has improved — that he can be back on the court against a very improved Cavalier team.”Adrian Wojnarowski
LeBron’s return would be interesting twofold. Of course, suiting up would mean a reunion of LA’s superstar trio. But it would also see the King face his former franchise in the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, who James spent 11 seasons with and won a title for in 2016, dropped their first two games but have won three straight heading into Friday’s matchup in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Lakers need a healthy LeBron James
For LeBron’s first 15 seasons, the ironman never missed more than a handful of games. But he’s already faced more ailments in Hollywood than at any point with Cleveland or the Miami Heat.
James’ first Lakers campaign was halted by a groin injury, forcing him to miss 17 games. LA would go on to finish 37-45, missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season. Two years later, the high ankle sprain against Atlanta cost him close to 30 games, precipitating LA’s fall from Western Conference leaders to a 42-30 play-in team. But in his healthy season, playing in 67 of a possible 71 contests, LeBron led the Lakers to their 17th title in historic fashion inside the bubble.
This season, the Lakers have many new faces. There’s Westbrook, but also veterans like DeAndre Jordan, Kent Bazemore, and Malik Monk. Simply put, all of these players need time with LeBron. It’s not easy to form chemistry with a high-IQ player like James, so the on-court experience is necessary early on. Otherwise, LA will be featuring a lot of purple and gold square pegs trying to fit into round holes.
Even with a slow start, the Lakers are amongst the favorites to contend for an NBA championship. But without the 36-year-old James, they would quickly plummet into mediocrity.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.