When Will LeBron James Return to the Los Angeles Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers have stumbled through the first several weeks of the season. Much of which has featured star forward LeBron James missing a significant bulk of time. James will now sit out another extended stretch after testing positive for COVID-19.

LeBron James sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19

The first quarter of the 2021-22 campaign has been nothing short of a struggle for James to stay on the court.

The 36-year-old has dealt with nagging injuries that limited him to play in only 11 of the first 22 games. James hit another frustrating hurdle as he tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, hours before the Lakers faced the Sacramento Kings.

The four-time league MVP is reportedly asymptomatic, a notion that teammate Anthony Davis confirmed after Los Angeles topped Sacramento 117-92.

“He said he’s good,” Davis said via Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “I think he’s asymptomatic, which is a good sign, but we want to make sure that he gets back. Health is most important. This is bigger than basketball. He has a family. We want to make sure that he’s good no matter what.”

James is coming off a solid stretch of games, with three straight 30-point outings, including recording a double-double. The brief stretch featured him hitting at least four 3-pointers twice, capped off by notching 33 points on 60% shooting in Sunday’s win over the Detroit Pistons.

His absence immediately shifts the attention over to the Lakers’ upcoming schedule with him out of the lineup.

When will LeBron James return to the Los Angeles Lakers?

The Lakers are moving into an all-too-familiar territory as James will miss another extended stretch.

The positive COVID-19 result will force him to sit out at least 10 days, per the NBA’s health and safety protocols. After that point, a player must go through cardiac screening and reconditioning to receive medical clearance to return. A player who tests positive may also get clearance if they garner two negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests within 24 hours.

It’s certainly an encouraging sign that James is asymptomatic, which may allow him to miss only 10 days. With James out for at least the next week and a half, it presumptively sidelines him for the next four games after Tuesday’s win over the Kings. Los Angeles will play the next two contests at home against LA Clippers on Friday and Boston Celtics on Dec. 7.

That brief stretch finishes with a two-game road trip featuring a back-to-back set facing the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 9, then the Oklahoma City Thunder the next night. The Lakers currently hold a 5-7 record without James, including suffering losses to the Celtics and Thunder.

Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis must lead the charge

James’ absence temporarily shifts the onus over to Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook to lead the charge.

The two stars handled the workload effectively on Tuesday night, combining for 47 points. They anchored an impressive 40-9 run in the second half that shifted the momentum in the Lakers’ favor.
Westbrook has turned it up a notch over the last six games as he’s averaging 25.7 points, 8.5 assists, 8.3 rebounds on 49.5% shooting from the floor.

Beyond that, James’ absence forces a lineup change. Avery Bradley also missed Tuesday’s contest with a thumb injury, which put Wayne Ellington into the starting lineup, where he scored nine points on 3-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc.

Meanwhile, Malik Monk played an extended role with 33 minutes, scoring 22 points on 6-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. The Lakers will turn to Monk and Carmelo Anthony to help offset the offensive workload with James sidelined.

Head coach Frank Vogel may also lean more heavily on Dwight Howard, who unexpectedly played 35 minutes against the Kings, recording a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds with two blocks and two steals.

Los Angeles possesses the depth to more than keep the boat afloat without their driving force.

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