The Los Angeles Lakers saw their four-game winning streak snapped after losing to the Atlanta Hawks, but that was not the story of the day with LeBron James being forced to exit after suffering an ankle injury.
In the second quarter, James had the ball in the mid-post when Solomon Hill inadvertently fell on his leg, rolling up James’ ankle in the process. James let out a yell as he writhed on the floor holding his ankle, forcing head coach Frank Vogel to call a timeout.
Miraculously, James stayed in the game and even knocked down a corner 3-pointer, but clearly was hobbled when running back on the defensive end. The 36-year-old was subsequently subbed out and left the floor visibly upset. He was eventually ruled out for the rest of the game with a right ankle injury.
Kyle Kuzma noted in his postgame interview that he did not see the injury occur but acknowledged that seeing James on the floor was much different than seeing him suffer his groin injury during the 2018-19 season.
“Maybe a little bit. I haven’t necessarily seen him scream like that probably ever, even with that groin. It probably hurt a little bit.”
When James suffered the groin injury, he simply walked off but the ankle injury looked serious given his reaction. James has seen his fair share of minor ailments, but this time around it looked like he could have suffered something far more serious, and he wound up being diagnosed with a high ankle sprain that will force him to miss some time.
Injuries have been piling up in the past month for Los Angeles, but this recent one to James is the team’s worst-case scenario. James was able to shoulder the load with Anthony Davis still nursing a calf strain, but his absence could spell a slip down the standings.
Kuzma says the Lakers will not try to complicate things while James is out.
“You just got to keep it simple. With life it’s no different, everything. You can only control what you can control. It’s very cliche and super simple, but that’s just life. You’ve got to control what you can control and we’ll see how it goes whatever news we get and however we go forward. That’s just how it is. We’ll see how it goes.”
Vogel has preached a “next man up” mentality since becoming the Lakers head coach, but even he has to admit that this will be an arduous challenge without James.
Lakers should forego standings for health
When the Lakers have a healthy James and Davis they should be widely considered to be the favorites for the 2021 NBA Championship. In a year where health might determine this year’s champion, Los Angeles would be wise to make sure their superstar duo is ready come playoff time.
The Lakers are currently No. 2 in the Western Conference, but seeding should not matter at all as long the team is fully available.
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