Injuries may end up making or breaking the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2020-21 season as they simply cannot stay healthy and are running out of time before the start of the playoffs.
The Lakers briefly saw LeBron James return after six weeks due to a sprained right ankle, but he was unable to finish his second game against the Toronto Raptors, leaving late due to soreness in the ankle. James was then reportedly ruled out for the team’s back-to-back set against the L.A. Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers.
Despite the setback, it appears the 36-year-old is looking to return sometime next week, per Shams Charania of The Athletic:
“Sources tell me LeBron James is aiming to return to Lakers lineup next week. I’m told the likely return scenario is Tuesday or Wednesday when the Lakers plays the Knicks and Rockets at home.
“The Lakers and James won’t rush his return from this sore right ankle. They’ll make sure that when he does return he’s as close to 100% as possible. He’s already missed one game and he’s expected to sit out Thursday, Friday, and Sunday against Phoenix to close out this week and that will then allow the Lakers and James to reevaluate his injury into the final week of the regular season.”
It seems that James may have ramped up too quickly after not getting any scrimmages in before his return, so it is good the team is playing it safe. The Lakers championship hopes live and die with James’ availability, so they should be doing everything to make sure he is fully healthy come playoff time.
However, his absence could lead Los Angeles down into the play-in tournament where they will need to win a game to secure their spot. It would be unwise to bet against the Purple and Gold in a game that matters, but it would still be in the team’s best interest to avoid the tournament.
Vogel not worried about play-in tournament
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has maintained that the team doesn’t care about the standings, and that seems to still be true despite their poor play in recent weeks. Even though the play-in tournament is a likely outcome now, Vogel reiterated he is not stressing about it.
“The play-in tournament is out of my control,” Vogel said. “If we’re in it, we’ll compete and win those games, so we’ll try to advance. Whether we should have one or not, it’s not up to me, so I don’t spend too much time on whether it’s good or not.”
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