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Luke Walton says LeBron James is ‘dying to get back’ on the court for the Lakers, but will most likely not return on Thursday

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Luke Walton says LeBron James is making progress, but not quite enough to play Thursday night when the Lakers host the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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NBA: Golden State Warriors at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers appear on the verge of getting some help back, even if it isn’t the person at the top of their priority list. Still, any progress with LeBron James beats the alternative, and head coach Luke Walton says things are at least going in the right direction.

“He’s doing everything possible, and we’ve talked. I know he’s dying to get back on the basketball court but he also knows that getting healthy is the top priority,” Walton told reporters of James’ status after the Lakers were blown out Monday night.

“Whenever that day comes he’ll be back out there, but I would say right now I feel more confident about Rondo being ready for Thursday.”

Something to keep in mind as James works to get back: This first season was always going to be a test case compared to the second year of his contract and on. It simply doesn’t make sense to rush James back from injury to a team as obviously flawed as this one.

It’d be one thing if the Lakers had already acquired a second superstar and were legitimate title contenders, but rushing James back to flight, claw and scratch their way back into a playoff spot seems pretty shortsighted — especially when you take into account the other injuries the Lakers are currently dealing with.

As things currently stand, the Lakers are in ninth place in the Western Conference and would be the first team left out of the playoffs. If they do go on a run when James returns and get back into the postseason, it would likely be as a lower seed that would have to immediately take on one of the league’s best teams without home-court advantage.

In any of these scenarios, James has to be 100%, not just for this season, but as the Lakers’ most important player for years to come. To do that the team can’t rush him, and it doesn’t sound like they’re going to.

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