The Los Angeles Lakers announced that LeBron James returned to L.A. to have his ankle evaluated further and continue to get treatment with team permission, which means he will miss the conclusion of the road trip on Thursday night against the Utah Jazz.
James suffered the ankle injury in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss against the New Orleans Pelicans, spraining it after stepping on the foot of another player.
He was able to play through it and finish with 39 points, although he clearly did not look like his usual self in the second half. He then said after the game that it was feeling ‘horrible,’ and that if the game wasn’t so important for the Lakers, he would not have tried to play through the injury.
With only seven regular-season games to play, the Lakers will need James in as many as possible if they want to have any hope of making the Play-In Tournament.
After Thursday’s game against Utah, the Lakers will return home and host the Pelicans on Friday, which is probably the most important game left on their schedule. While James may be hoping to play in that contest and is returning home early to prepare for it, reports have indicated that he suffered a grade 2 ankle sprain that typically requires a couple of weeks of recovery time.
James, obviously, recovers faster than most athletes even at age 37, but playing as soon as Friday, less than a week after suffering the injury, seems a bit farfetched. After the game against the Pelicans, the Lakers have a day off before hosting the Denver Nuggets in a 12:30 p.m. PT matinee game.
James needs to play 3 more games to qualify for scoring title
Another reason James may be preparing to make a return, even if that playoffs are a lost cause, is because he needs to play in three more games to qualify for the scoring title.
James is currently the leader in the clubhouse at 30.1 points per game but has only played 55 games and it’s a close race, so he must return and play at a high level for three games to get to the required 58 and maintain the No. 1 spot.
While that is obviously secondary to his health, winning the scoring title for the first time since 2007-08 and just the second time in his career in his 19th second would be an incredible accomplishment for James.
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