After the longest absence due to injury of his career, LeBron James is finally back on the court for the Los Angeles Lakers. He made his return on Friday night against the Sacramento Kings after missing the last 20 games, finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists in 32 minutes.
Unfortunately, James’ return did not bring about a change of fortune for the Lakers, who lost for the fifth time in six games, blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Kings.
The time away was not easy for James and he didn’t hold back when discussing it.
“It was horrible, honestly,” James said after the loss. “It was more stressful than I’ve ever been. The first couple of weeks was pretty good because I wasn’t allowed to travel much. Well, I didn’t travel much, as the injury and the swelling was happening, so I kind of stayed at home. I didn’t go on a couple of road trips with our team.
“I was able to stay home and be with my family, so that was very rewarding, but as far as watching the games and not being able to play, sitting on the bench knowing that you couldn’t make much of a difference. It’s very stressful, but I’m happy I’m playing now. More stress relief.”
The Lakers went 8-12 without James, an admirable effort considering how important he is to the team’s success. The fact that they were also without Anthony Davis for the majority of those games makes their record even more impressive.
While he wasn’t on the court, James could be seen with his team on the sidelines most nights. What wasn’t seen by most was the work James was doing to get back as soon as he could.
“It’s been urgency for me to get back once I got injured, so that’s just who I am. If you guys could’ve seen the logging of minutes and hours I was doing as far as rehabbing and treatment. It was a lot more than I slept. Over the last six weeks, that’s all I’ve been doing is having the urgency to get back and play.”
Now that James is back in uniform, these last games before the playoffs will be all about getting him back at his best, which will then allow the Lakers as a team to reach their full potential. The team has the talent, but James is clearly the leader who will have to lift them to the necessary heights to win a championship.
Some question whether James is capable of doing that at 36 years old in his 18th NBA season. The fact that he may not be able to get back to 100% before the playoffs is a concern to many, but not James himself as at this point in his career, that simply isn’t feasible.
“Getting back to 100 percent is impossible. I don’t think I’ll ever get back to 100 percent in my career, but I feel comfortable when I know I can get on the floor and help my team win.”
Thankfully for someone of LeBron James’ talent level, 90% is better than just about everyone else’s 100%.
Drummond excited for opportunities LeBron will create
James’ return marked his first game with new Lakers center Andre Drummond. The big man is still getting used to working with Anthony Davis as well, but it is the playmaking of James that he stands to benefit from most. Even Drummond himself can’t process all of the benefits.
“I don’t think my brain can process what type of opportunities will come from him being on the court,” the Lakers big man recently said.
Though there is still plenty of room for their partnership to grow, their first game provided some promising highlights and it can only get better from here.
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