According to a report from Dave McMenamin and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN on Monday, James is already pretty far into his ramp-up process:
“James could return as soon as this week, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. James has looked “strong” in his ramp-up workouts on the Lakers’ current road trip, a source told ESPN.”
There’s obviously a difference between being in shape and being in game shape, but if James is impressing in his non-contact workouts, there’s reason to believe that he’ll be ready to contribute from the day he returns. It also suggests that he won’t have many restrictions when he returns, and that feeling is supported by Frank Vogel saying James will likely play in back-to-backs on Monday.
That doesn’t mean that James won’t have some rust when he returns — after all, it took Davis three games to start to look like himself — but if he can move well, he’ll be able to make an impact while he gets his rhythm and timing back. Considering the NBA Playoffs start in less than a month, that’s good news.
James won’t play in the Lakers’ next game against the Washington Wizards and it would be a surprise to see him play against the Sacramento Kings on Friday, but the following game against the Toronto Raptors seems like a realistic return date for James. Not only is that enough time for him to get at least one practice in, but it’s just over six weeks from the day he suffered his high ankle sprain.
Granted, the medical staff needs to clear him to practice first, but if we’re to believe all of the noise surrounding James’ recovery — both from James himself, his teammates and reporters — that should happen in a matter of days. The storm might not be here yet, but the skies are getting cloudy.