Multiple reports have indicated that LeBron James will miss at least a week, and potentially even two, with an abdominal strain that he sustained earlier this week. And while Lakers head coach Frank Vogel didn’t give anywhere near that specific of a timeline when discussing the injury on Thursday, he did admit that James is set to “miss some time” — i.e., multiple games — for the second time this season.
“There is obviously concern, but hopefully this is something that’s minimal and hopefully he’ll be back soon,” Vogel told reporters before the team took on the Oklahoma City Thunder in James’ first absence with the injury.
Vogel said that James doesn’t know exactly when or how the injury happened, but that he could feel something “pulling” midway through the team’s win against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday. James told the coaching staff about it and went down the tunnel to stretch with his longtime trainer Mike Mancias before ultimately finishing the game, but Vogel said that the medical staff later diagnosed him with the “rectus abdominis strain” the team is listing on the injury report.
Vogel added that the Lakers “don’t believe” this injury is related with the groin strain that helped limit James to just 55 games during the 2018-19 season.
“It’s not a re-aggravation,” Vogel said.
James has already missed two games this season with ankle soreness, and is now set to miss several more, but when he does return, Vogel says that the team is not monitoring their star — who will turn 37 next month — any more closely than they have in prior years.
“We want to be responsible with his minutes, and, like you just said, get to the finish line as healthy as possible, but also as in rhythm as possible,” Vogel said. “That’s the balance that we strike throughout the year.”
And while there are no silver linings to a pillar of the team like James getting hurt, Vogel did acknowledge that the team is at least more prepared for it than they were last year, when James missed (27) games with a high ankle sprain and the team struggled to stay afloat.
This year they have Russell Westbrook, a third star to step up and help carry the load while James rests. The Lakers want James and Westbrook to fit together of course, but situations like this were part of the rationale in trading for him.
“We want those guys to get as many minutes as they can together, but this was one of the reasons we all felt good about trading for Russell,” Vogel said. “Being able to handle stretches where we don’t have LeBron or AD better than we did last year.”
The Lakers appear set for their first major test of that reasoning now. We’ll see how Westbrook and Anthony Davis fare on it shortly.