The Los Angeles Lakers previously declared LeBron James as out on Friday vs. the Sacramento Kings, but according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, that could change, and James is going to attempt to play.
ESPN Sources: LeBron James’ return from longest absence of his career — out since March 20 with high-ankle sprain – could come tonight vs. Kings. James plans to test ankle and make a game-time decision. Otherwise, he’s likely to return as soon as Sunday vs. Toronto.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 30, 2021
Shortly after Woj’s report, the team officially upgraded James to questionable for Friday’s game, and then Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that James was likely to suit up:
James has missed the last 20 games with a high ankle sprain he suffered against the Atlanta Hawks on March. 20. Potentially returning after being declared out may seem like surprising process, but this has kind of been James’ M.O.
Was thinking the other day about how when LeBron came back two years ago, he was also listed out the day before ...— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) April 30, 2021
... then doubtful at shootaround ...
... then a game-time decision ...
... then he was back.
The Kings took the news well:
lol— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) April 30, 2021
The Lakers have avoided falling to one of the dreaded play-in spots in James’ absence, but they’re going to need him back in uniform sooner rather than later to stay in the top-six.
With 10 games left on their regular season schedule, the Lakers are only one game ahead of the No. 6 seed, the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers will play the Portland Trail Blazers for the final time this season on May 7 and if they lose that game, they’ll lose their tiebreaker with Portland. They also lost their tiebreaker with the Mavericks earlier this month.
Before that crucial game against the Trail Blazers, the Lakers will play the Denver Nuggets and LA Clippers, two teams that are ahead of them in the standings. Obviously the No. 1 priority for the Lakers should be making sure James is healthy for the postseason, but they could also use him for that three-game stretch. But even if their next few games didn’t have serious playoff implications, it would be good for James to have more than six or seven games to ramp up before the start of the postseason.
Then again, James only had seven games to get ready for the playoffs last season, and we all saw how that turned out.