For six weeks, there was a lot LeBron James couldn’t do as he tried to work his way back to the floor. As he rehabbed his high ankle sprain, he couldn’t take any contact during his workouts. He couldn’t play five-on-five. For a while, he couldn’t even travel with his Lakers teammates because the medical staff wanted to keep his swelling down as much as possible. He didn’t even get a full practice in before returning against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
In that respect, the fact that he dropped 16 points, 7 assists and 8 rebounds was a small bit of success in and of itself, despite the 110-106 loss. For James, it was a moment that highlighted all the things that he did do to try and get back for his team as quickly and safely as possible. He may not have been able to do much, but he did everything he could.
“There’s been urgency for me to get back ever since I got injured. That’s just who I am,” James said, adding that he spent more time doing rehab and getting treatment than he was even able to sleep during his time away.
James likely didn’t sleep much better after the Lakers lost in his first game back, but the team did get a small victory nonetheless: Their star says he felt about as good as could be expected after all the time he missed.
“For my first game in six weeks, I felt okay. As far as my wind, I felt pretty good. As far as my ankle, my ankle was a little tight at times, obviously. Just doing different movements, different things that I haven’t done in a game situation in six weeks,” James said. “Obviously as the games go on that will continue to improve, but I came out unscathed and pretty good. So it’s a good start.”
James’ choice of the word “unscathed” there is an interesting one, considering that he’d later admit he’ll never be truly “unscathed” by injuries again. At 36 years old after an NBA career that has spanned the better part of two decades, he’s always going to feel some pain as he exists in a state of almost perpetual rehab.
“I knew that getting back to 100%, it’s impossible. I don’t think I will ever get back to 100% in my career,” James said. “But I felt comfortable to where I knew I could get on the floor and help my team win.”
With just nine games left and only a half game lead over the Dallas Mavericks for the fifth seed in the Western Conference, the Lakers will need James to help them do a fair amount of winning if they want to avoid dropping in the standings. And despite the aches and pains that come with a long professional career, he’s ready to get back on the floor and do so.
“Over the last six weeks, that’s all I’ve been doing,” James said. “Having an urgency to get back and play.”