LeBron James returned to the field this weekend for the Lakers after missing 20 straight games with an ankle injury. With Los Angeles losing five of seven games before his return, James was supposed to provide a spark to the roster and help the reeling Lakers make up some of the ground they had lost in the Western Conference standings.
Instead, the Lakers abandoned the two games they played with James. And against the Raptors, James came out with an ankle pain after 27 minutes of action and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. As a result, he’s gearing up for another absence, and it’s just a matter of whether it will be a long absence.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports that James will miss the last end of a straight Monday night game against the Nuggets while dealing with the ankle problem. However, the most important part of the report is that James’ status for Thursday night’s team game is “uncertain”.
Lakers star LeBron James will miss tonight’s back-to-back against Denver with right ankle pain, sources say @TheAthletic @Stadium. His status is uncertain at the moment for the next game, Thursday against the Clippers.
– Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 3, 2021
The fact that the game against the Clippers takes place after two full days off for the Lakers is a plus for James, as he will have extra time to regain his strength. However, with James already being deemed “uncertain” for such a distant game is certainly not a good thing, and that means the Lakers will be watching James very closely as he tries to recover before the playoffs start.
AFTER: LeBron James slams NBA play-in tournament amid Lakers struggles
In addition to James being absent, the Lakers will also be without guard Dennis Schroeder as he enters the league’s health and safety protocols. Schroeder sits third on the team with 15.5 points per game and has been instrumental in the team’s rotation with and without James this year.
With just eight games to play in the season, every game counts for the seventh-ranked Lakers (36-28). They’re looking to avoid having to play in the NBA play-in tournament, but if James runs out of time, the Lakers could find themselves locked in the No.7 seed and be part of the play-in.
This is something James and Co. would like to avoid, but as long as the team star is away it will be difficult for them to keep stringing together wins. They are just 8-13 in 21 games without James so far this season.