After only doing non-contact drills at practice on Wednesday, LeBron James will not play against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday, Lakers head coach Luke Walton announced after practice.
While that was expected given how little we’ve heard about his status leading up to Wednesday’s practice, there was still some optimism that he would play. His next opportunity to make his return will come on Sunday, when the Lakers host the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center.
Walton told reporters that James hasn’t technically been ruled out of that game yet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he or Rajon Rondo, who is questionable for Thursday, will play (via Lakers.com):
“He’s not out yet Sunday so I guess that puts him in play, but with him and Rondo it’s going to be how he’s feeling tomorrow morning and we’ll take it from there, see how he’s doing the next day after that, then the next day. Whenever they’re physically read to play, then they’ll play.”
James has missed four weeks and 14 games because of a groin strain he suffered against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. According to James’ agent Rich Paul, he was given a timetable of anywhere between four to six weeks.
If James misses two more weeks, the Lakers, who are 5-9 without Rondo, could be in serious danger of falling too far out of the playoff picture. They’re currently the ninth seed in the Western Conference, a half game back from the eight seed Los Angeles Clippers and a game ahead of the 10th seed Sacramento Kings.
However, despite how close the playoff race if the West is, Rondo doesn’t think missing the playoffs is possible with James on the roster:
“We got LeBron. I don’t know the last time he missed the playoffs.”
Hopefully Rondo is right and James returns to the floor sooner rather than later to lead the Lakers to their first playoff berth in six years.
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