LeBron James’ Nagging Knee Issues Present the Lakers With an Alarming Red Flag

The Los Angeles Lakers grabbed a much-needed win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday behind LeBron James‘ season-high 56-point performance to snap a four-game skid. However, the Lakers fell right back down to square one as James’ left knee issue flared up, forcing him to miss Monday’s contest against the San Antonio Spurs that resulted in another disappointing loss.

As much as the four-time league MVP showcases he’s an ageless wonder, the ugly truth continues to stare the franchise in the eyes. James’ health will remain an issue that the Lakers can only hope for the best.

LeBron James isn’t letting Father Time slow him down

Lakers forward LeBron James reacts to a play during a game against the Clippers.
Lakers forward LeBron James looks on during a game against the Clippers. | Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the 2021-22 season has proven anything about LeBron James, it’s that he has plenty of gas left in the tank to play at an elite level.

In his 19th campaign, he’s performing at a historic pace, ranking second in the league with 29.4 points per contest. His remarkable scoring output has put him into the NBA record books, such as becoming the oldest player to tally seven straight games with at least 30 points scored.

James also became the oldest player to record at 25 points in 23 consecutive contests, which tied Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor for the longest such streak in franchise history. The 18-time All-Star isn’t showing any decline, but his ailing left knee indicates a quite concerning reality for the Lakers.

LeBron James’ nagging knee issues present the Lakers with an alarming red flag

As brilliant as LeBron James’ 56-point outing was, the star forward is dealing with the repercussions of his significant workload.

The 37-year-old’s nagging knee issue has flared up again, leading him to miss Monday’s game against the Spurs. Head coach Frank Vogel acknowledged that James’ massive responsibility has forced him to overwork his body due to the necessity to carry the team.

“With the heavy load that he’s carrying for us this year, we know that it’s always a possibility,” Vogel said of James via ESPN. “I think that’s why we continue to list him as questionable to see how it’s responding over the 48 hours between games. And this is just one of those days where it was significant enough to hold him out.”

James’ absence on Monday marked his sixth game missed due to the injury as he previously sat five straight contests last month. Vogel also indicated a strong chance James could miss Wednesday’s game if the swelling persists.

What makes matters worse is that the four-time league MVP revealed that the knee injury is comparable to the high right ankle sprain he suffered last season that kept him off the floor for nearly two months.

James is muscling through the issues due to his importance to the Lakers making a serious playoff push. That is especially the case with Anthony Davis sidelined a set timetable for a return. The star forward is well aware of that, which is why he is pushing through the nagging problems instead of giving himself the appropriate rest.

With the Lakers jocking for playoff position, each of the remaining 18 regular-season games holds significant weight. James will stay on the floor as much as possible, but the knee problems won’t disappear anytime soon.

Lakers’ playoff hopes hinge on LeBron’s health

As much as the Lakers want to ease the workload off James’ shoulders, the team sits in the position to depend on him greatly.

Russell Westbrook attempted to fill part of that enormous responsibility in Monday’s game against the Spurs but couldn’t lead his team forward. The bottom line is that the Lakers need James on the floor even to be competitive.

The notable injuries have underlined that the roster construction has much less margin for error than the franchise envisioned. Los Angeles has lacked consistent play from the supporting cast, while Westbrook’s offensive shortcomings have only become more apparent.

The Lakers have no choice but to make the best of the bleak circumstances and hope that James remains healthy enough to lead the charge.

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