The Los Angeles Lakers released their official medical update on LeBron James on Wednesday, saying that he will miss the next two games but that he will resume practice with the team next week “and progress towards a return to game play thereafter.”
That last bit of information is new, but James’ agent Rich Paul had already announced news that James wouldn’t be traveling with the Lakers on their upcoming road trip on Tuesday. That’s not all he said either.
In an interview with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Paul said that James isn’t going to return until he is 100 percent healthy, regardless of how long that might take.
“We don’t give a shit what nobody thinks or says,” Paul said via phone. “We’re going to do what’s best for him. The best-case scenario was three weeks, the worst-case was six weeks, and we’re right on schedule. He’ll improve his workload, and he’ll be day to day from there.
“Now day to day doesn’t mean tomorrow or the next day (he’ll be back). Day to day means that after each day of his workload, we’ll evaluate it, and when he feels his best he’ll play. However long it takes, it’ll take. We’re not on nobody else’s timeline.”
The most interesting thing about these comments from Paul is the fact that he gave a definitive timeline, specifically that six-week timeline.
Since James suffered his groin injury on Christmas Day, the Lakers have been hesitant to put a specific timeline on his return. So far, his updates have been limited to weekly announcements about his status and when he’ll be reevaluated next.
The fact that the most thorough updates on James are coming straight from his agent and not the team is unorthodox, but not entirely surprising given how tight James and Paul are, and how much power they wield over not just the Lakers, but the league. It is worth questioning how the organization feels about losing control of this narrative, though.
Regardless of where the information is coming from, it doesn’t sound like James is going to rush back, no matter how much he’d like to be on the floor helping his team win.
“Look, LeBron is in his 16th year, and he’s a proven guy,” Paul continued. “He doesn’t owe nothing to nobody. When he’s ready to be back, he’ll be back. It’s as simple as that. Until then, he’s going to root his teammates on and try to help them as best he can.
“Obviously he cares (about their struggles). The man wants to play. He’s fucking itching to play, but he can’t put himself in that situation. It’s just, you’ve really got to do the right thing and it has zero to do with his age, or the fact that he’s played 16 seasons – nothing to do with that. This is a tendon. It’s not a shoulder, or an ankle, or an elbow. The smart thing to do is to do the smart thing. You can’t allow media, or the fact that the team might be losing, to dictate what’s best for you, and we won’t. He’s progressing. He’s not ready yet.”
In the 11 games the Lakers have played without James, they’re 4-7. With their upcoming slate of games, it’s not going to be easy for them to get past that four-win mark.
However, it’s easier to make up a few games in January than it is to make up a dozen games in March or April. While it might not be the route most fans would like to see, taking things slow with James is the right move to ensure he doesn’t miss more time or do long-term damage.
Let’s just hope that his timeline is closer to three weeks than six weeks, or things could get a lot worse for the Lakers before they get better for LeBron.