LeBron James suffered a high ankle sprain on March 20 against the Atlanta Hawks, and has missed the last 15 games the Lakers have played. The team quickly declared him out indefinitely, and the only updates we’ve really gotten since then have come through media reports.
In the most recent such update, Adrian Wojnarowski reported on April 10 that James was “on track” to make his return in three weeks. Now, a little over a week later, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said that James has started doing on-court work as he continues his rehab.
“It’s still light work on the court, but he’s doing court work and progressing each day. He’s trying to do a little bit more with his activity each day,” Vogel said before the Lakers took on the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on Monday.
Could being cleared for this be what James was referencing in his cryptic Instagram post a week ago?
Even if it wasn’t, this is still the first real word we’ve gotten from the team on James’ progress, and it certainly qualifies as good news. While “light work” doesn’t necessarily suggest that James’ return is imminent, all of this stuff is a progression, and the fact that he’s getting back on the hardwood and no longer wearing a boot on the sidelines for games are both reasons for optimism about his current health status.
Wojnarowski’s original three week report would slate James for a return on around either April 30 against the Sacramento Kings, or May 2 or 3, when the Lakers have a back-to-back at home against the Toronto Raptors and Denver Nuggets. It’s too early to know for certain where he’ll fall in that range — or if he’ll return before or after those dates — but Vogel’s words on Monday are at least a sign that Lakers fans can be optimistic that slowly but surely, their star is making his way back to the court.
The team certainly isn’t going to rush him and risk making things worse at this point, but at least it looks like James is on-track to return with a few games to get his legs under him before the playoffs. After this injury-riddled season, that’s about all anyone hoping this team will get a real chance to defend its title can ask for.