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Lakers vs. Nets Preview: LeBron James planning to play

After a busy weekend (and with a hard month ahead) the Lakers may be better off resting LeBron James against the Nets, especially if his groin is already sore.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

UPDATE: LeBron James said at shootaround that he’s planning to play when the Lakers take on the Nets on Tuesday night, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Original story follows.

The Los Angeles Lakers needed everything LeBron James could give them in their two matchups with the LA Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks over the weekend, and he delivered them two wins.

Now, though? It might be time for him to earn a well-deserved rest.

The Lakers did not practice on Monday, but are having a rare shootaround on Tuesday morning, where the team may provide a further update on if James can be expected to play in their Tuesday night matchup against the Brooklyn Nets. For now, they are listing him as questionable with a “sore left groin,” the same designation that led him to miss their recent win against the Golden State Warriors.

And after the weekend James just had, and with upcoming matchups with the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz (twice) over the next week or so, Brooklyn should offer just as good of an opportunity to give the Lakers’ 35-year-old star a break as the Stephen Curry-less Warriors did.

The Nets (29-34) are not a good basketball team. They just mutually parted ways with (i.e. fired, but nicely) their coach, head coach Kenny Atkinson. The first move his interim replacement, Jacque Vaughn, made was to insert DeAndre Jordan into the starting lineup over the superior Jarrett Allen because he’s friends with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant... reasons. Brooklyn responded by beating the Chicago Bulls — who are also terrible — but with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant done for the year, this is still a team the Lakers should be able to handle without James.

The counterargument that my fiancee — who, like surely a few others, is going to her first game of the year and is furious at me for writing a post arguing for LeBron to sit out — would make to everything above is that part of the Lakers’ identity this year has been taking every game seriously, and that James only played less than a minute more than his (career-low) season average in minutes per game over the weekend. James himself has even said he has no interest in load management.

That’s all well and good, but those were clearly more taxing minutes against two contenders over the weekend, and this isn’t load management in a sense, because James is apparently hurt. And if James’ groin actually flared up over the weekend, well... the Lakers have seen how that movie ends. They may have clinched a playoff spot, but without James, the Lakers aren’t going anywhere. They should exercise caution with him, no matter how realistic a chance they seem to have to catch Milwaukee for the league’s best record now that the Bucks’ tumble leaves the two squads nearly even in losses.

We’ll see if the Lakers feel the same way as I do about all this a little closer to the game. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. PST at Staples Center, and the game will be televised locally on Spectrum Sportsnet.

Notes and Updates

  • Dwight Howard is going to miss tonight’s game.
  • Frank Vogel said it would be a few games before new signing Dion Waiters makes his debut, but if James does sit out, it’s not impossible to imagine that he may get some run as the Lakers look for ballhandling to replace James.
  • If James does sit out, there have been recent signs that the Lakers are getting better without him. That’s not to suggest they aren’t worse without their star on the floor, but some changes from Anthony Davis and the coaching staff (plus a new roster addition) has made them more effective when James sits, addressing what had previously been a season-long Achilles heel for the team.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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