The Los Angeles Lakers continue to limp toward the finish line of the regular season. LeBron James’ extended absence has only further created more significant doubt concerning the team’s title chances. However, Lakers fans can brush that aside with James‘ return date finally revealed.
LeBron James sidelined again
After the longest absence in his NBA career, LeBron James made his long-awaited return earlier this month.
However, James’ comeback was short-lived as he played in only two games before suffering a setback. He exited the fourth quarter during the loss to the Toronto Raptors on May 2 and has remained without a return date.
Thanks to the two combined stretches without James, the Lakers fell from the second-best record in the Western Conference to the seventh spot. LA is in danger of participating in the play-in tournament to secure one of the final two postseason positions.
However, things are trending in the right direction behind back-to-back impressive wins against the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks. The Lakers also still hold a shot at securing the fifth overall spot, trailing both the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers by one game.
LA can finally rest assured with its star forward’s return finally set in place.
LeBron James finally circles a return date to the Lakers
Over the last few days, several positive details have leaked out about James’ health.
The 36-year-old strung together back-to-back practices on Sunday and Monday without experiencing any pain. All that came after reports indicated James could return to the floor for one of the back-to-back games against the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets.
Despite that, the Lakers are taking the precautionary approach as Yahoo Sports‘ Chris Haynes indicated that James won’t play in Wednesday’s game against the Rockets.
The four-time league MVP indicated as much on Twitter, stating that he will be there as the Lakers hang their 2020 championship banner.
“Getting close but I won’t be in the lineup tonight,” James said. “But more importantly I will be there to put that CHAMPIONSHIP banner in the rafters at Staples Center in front of our fans!!”
Haynes also reported that James will make his return Saturday against the Indiana Pacers. It marks the first leg of a back-to-back set to end the regular season, with the last game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Los Angeles is taking all the precautionary measures with its star forward. The extra game off gives him three more days to allow his ankle to recuperate further for the playoff push.
Lakers are eyeing the bigger picture
The decision to head that route with James underlines the Lakers’ focus on the bigger picture.
Los Angeles also elected to sit star forward Anthony Davis as he’s dealing with a groin injury. Davis experienced tightness late in the overtime win against the Knicks.
The Lakers are well aware of the uphill battle to garner a higher playoff seed. Not only does the team likely need to win its final three games, but it also requires either or both of the Trail Blazers and Mavericks to lose one more contest due to the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage.
That said, the Lakers haven’t aired much concern with falling into the play-in tournament. Many of the players voiced tremendous confidence in their ability, especially with James and Davis leading the charge.
Ultimately, time will tell if the playoff seeding truly matters.