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LeBron James wants to be careful and make sure he doesn’t take a step backwards with his groin injury over final stretch

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NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James is expected to suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers when they take on the Brooklyn Nets on Friday after sitting out of Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee.

James missed 17 games in the middle of the season with a groin strain, and while he has slowly worked his way back to close to full strength since then, the Lakers have dialed back his playing time to reduce risk of him re-aggravating his groin — or injuring it further — now that they’re more than 10 games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

At shootaround on Friday, James told reporters that him resting games and playing less minutes is to ensure that he doesn’t lose any of the progress he’s made since coming back in February.

James wanting to be on the court with his teammates to finish the season is admirable, but if there is even a trace of groin soreness or risk of injury, there is no reason for him to play another second for the Lakers this season.

The first step to the Lakers bouncing back next season will, of course, start in the offseason with the draft and free agency. However, what James does in the summer is going to be just as important as what the team does.

If James used the offseason to get his body and mind where it needs to be for next season, the Lakers will be in great shape, literally and figuratively speaking. If James spends the majority of his summer rehabbing an injury and not doing any work on the court, he won’t be able give his team the help they need to be successful next season.

A lot of what the Lakers hope to accomplish this summer is mostly out of their control, so it’s going to be important for them to focus on the things they can control, like their players’ health. That starts with James.

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