When LeBron James slipped on Christmas Day and cameras caught him saying he heard a pop, there was perfect reason for the Los Angeles Lakers to be concerned. James was removed in the third quarter due to an injury that was diagnosed as a groin strain.
Initial testing and evaluation came with some optimism, however James went on to miss just over five weeks while recovering. James missed 17 games in what was the longest absence of his 16-year career.
“I just tried to stay as positive as possible,” he said of the lengthy recovery. “I’ve got a great support staff with my family, my friends, the training staff. I just tried to stay as positive as possible.
“I wasn’t positive every day throughout this whole process. I probably had more negative moments personally than I did positive ones. But when you’ve got a great support staff, it helps out a lot. There were times I felt great, and then a day or two later, I didn’t feel so good.
“Times where I thought I could come back faster and quicker than I came back now, but it just wasn’t reacting the right way. I had to be patient, which you know I’m not patient at all. Just put a lot of hard work into getting back out there.”
The Lakers cautiously handled James’ rehab process, which included a steady buildup with his level of on-court activity. He returned against the Clippers, overcoming self-doubt late in the day. The Lakers went 6-11 without James, adding to his angst and frustration.
“I’ve never been injured before like that. The most I’ve ever sat out was two weeks when I broke my wrist when I was in high school as a junior,” he said. “I didn’t come here to sit on the bench. I love clothes, I love shoes, but I didn’t come here to put on a suit every day. I came here to put on a jersey, shorts, that’s what I came here to do.
“And lead a team the best way I know how. That’s the frustration part. When you see your team struggle and know how much you can help them, and you can’t do anything in a suit and tie, that’s where the negativity starts to creep into your mind.”
James admitted to feeling roughly 80 percent upon returning and was walking gingerly in the locker room after logging 40 minutes in an overtime win. Lingering soreness prevented James from playing against the Golden State Warriors.
He remained probable on the injury report due to load management but played in the Lakers’ final four games leading into the All-Star break.
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