LeBron James has been medically cleared to ramp up his on-court activities for the Los Angeles Lakers after undergoing an evaluation by the training staff, the team announced on Thursday. He will be re-evaluated on Wednesday, Jan. 16.
James has missed eight games with a groin strain so far and he will miss the Lakers’ next three games. Using the projected timeline, the soonest James would be able to make his return would be on Thursday, when the Lakers travel to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder.
Luckily, they might not need him until then.
Over their next three games, the Lakers will see teams that are currently outside of the playoff picture including the Utah Jazz (21-21), the Cleveland Cavaliers (8-34) and the Chicago Bulls (10-31). With the exception of the road game in Salt Lake City, the Lakers should be considered heavy favorites for their upcoming slate of games.
If James misses time beyond that, though, the Lakers could be in for a rough week or two.
Following their game against the Bulls, the Lakers will hop on a plane for a two-game road trip with stops in Oklahoma City and Houston. While the young players are slowly learning how to win games without James, the Thunder and the Rockets are legitimate playoff contenders who have beaten the Lakers in each of their meetings this season.
Then, when they return from their road trip, they will host the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on Martin Luther King Day. DeMarcus Cousins is expected to be available for that game.
It should go without saying, but the next three games for the Lakers are about as close to must-win games as you can get in January. Let’s hope they can continue to build on the progress they’ve made over the past two games.