LeBron James is on track to return this week and it sounds like this time, it will be for more than just two games. According to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Los Angeles Lakers have been encouraged by what they’ve seen from James in the last few days, leaving the door open for him to return against the New York Knicks on Tuesday.
Much more optimism on state of LeBron James’ right ankle after on-court work Sunday and Monday, sources tell ESPN. James was pain-free after several days off – and able to make hard cuts and elevate. Return on Tuesday vs. Knicks is likely. https://t.co/UTXIC1V0Vh— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 10, 2021
Frank Vogel was mum when it came to James’ availability for Tuesday’s game after the Lakers’ practice on Monday, but he did confirm that James did everything at practice, which included drill work, some “contrived scrimmages” and a short scrimmage at the end of practice.
“He did participate in the full practice,” Vogel said. “No update for his status tomorrow.”
Marc Gasol didn’t reveal too much after practice either, only saying that James was on the court with them.
“He’s around,” Gasol said. “He’s been doing basketball stuff and obviously is very vocal leading us, helping us every way he can. He was shooting the ball a couple times today.”
Fortunately, some of James’ other teammates were willing to share a bit more on Sunday. Their comments, in combination with the reports that came out on Monday, is enough reason to strongly believe James will be back on Tuesday.
If James is cleared to play on Tuesday, he’ll also technically be available for Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets. However, Vogel said there’s no concrete plan for James when it comes to the Lakers’ two remaining back-to-backs, or at least not one that he’s willing to share.
“The general plan is to take it one day at a time,” Vogel said. “Nothing more than that.”
James’ return likely won’t catapult the Lakers back into the top-six, even if he looks close to 100% from day one, but it will give them more time to develop chemistry, which is important because James has only played two games with Andre Drummond and Ben McLemore. His return will also take some pressure off of Alex Caruso, who’s operated as the team’s primary ball-handler in the absence of James and Dennis Schröder.
The Lakers and Knicks will tip-off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. An update on James’ status will be provided before then.