When the Lakers labeled LeBron James as a true gametime decision with ankle soreness that had sidelined him for the prior two contests, it was not an exaggeration. It was only after going through a few tests behind closed doors at 5:45 p.m. on Friday with athletic performance coach Mike Mancias — less than two hours before tip-off — that James got a simple nod from his longtime trainer, a tilt of the head that indicated he was cleared to play.
26 points, 8 assists, one win and a few hours later, James told the media that his ankle was still feeling pretty good afterwards.
“I definitely feel it a little bit right now, but that’s just the adrenaline wearing off,” James said. “It feels a lot better postgame today than it did postgame on Sunday when we played Memphis.”
James’ self-assessment lead to a sigh of relief from Lakers fans holding their breath over James’ ailing ankle, the same one that sidelined him for much of last season and left him looking like a shell of himself in the playoffs. Even if this is a different injury to a different spot on the ankle, it’s still great news for the Lakers that James continues to feel improvement in the ankle even after playing on it. As long as that continues to be the case, this team should be in good shape.
Still, the team has opted to list James as questionable on the injury report for their Sunday matchup vs. the Houston Rockets. Trevor Ariza (right ankle injury recovery), Talen Horton-Tucker (right thumb injury recovery) and Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise) are still out, while Wayne Ellington (left hamstring strain) is also questionable, despite being cleared for basketball activities. Anthony Davis (right knee soreness) is again listed as probable, while Sekou Doumbouya and Jay Huff (two-way contracts) are with the South Bay Lakers for the team’s training camp.
But considering that James and Davis were both listed the same way with the same injuries for the prior game, it would not be a surprise at all to see them suit up once more. So as long as James didn’t have a setback overnight, it does appear like this team is finally getting closer to rounding into form after an injury-riddled start to the season.