During the Thursday episode of ESPN’s “The Jump,” longtime NBA journalist Marc Spears reported that it is officially time to worry about the high ankle sprain that Lakers star LeBron James is currently still working his way back from:
"We need to be concerned about LeBron James. He was supposed to be the PG. I'm hearing he's playing on one leg"— The Jump on ESPN (@NBATheJump) May 20, 2021
—@MarcJSpears #NBA #NBATwitter #TheJump #LakeShow https://t.co/Axm7CuLPvS
But with all due respect to Spears, who is as plugged in as NBA journalists come, James said he was all right during his postgame chat with reporters after the Lakers beat the Golden State Warriors to advance to the first round of the NBA playoffs. James said he didn’t feel any pain at that point, from either getting poked in the eye or his ongoing ankle soreness.
“I’m good. I told you guys I was good. I’m good. That’s the most minutes I’ve played in a long time and I didn’t feel anything on that play. Draymond’s finger or thumb or whatever went directly into my eye, and that’s why I was down,” James said. “Just making sure I was okay, making sure I wasn’t bleeding and making sure I could see a little bit at least so I could finish the game.”
The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. James has no incentive to tell opponents or the public what physical issues he’s currently dealing with, especially not ahead of a series against the Phoenix Suns that will feature large doses of Jae Crowder trying to rip his various limbs off.
Still, Frank Vogel admitted pregame that James could probably use some more rest, something that was obvious while watching the reigning NBA Finals MVP play against the Warriors.
“I would say he’s not full strength, but he’s getting there,” Vogel said of James. “It’s really tough for me to put a number on it or a percent or anything like that. He looked pretty good the last two games but obviously we would have loved to have a couple more weeks to get him where he wants to be.”
Vogel said the same goes for the rest of the Lakers.
“It’s nice to have everyone available, but it would have been nice to have another week or two for guys to really get their legs under them and get their rhythm and timing back and the cohesiveness as we work in new guys,” Vogel said. “That’s just the situation we’re, but we’re prepared to make the best of it and win games throughout.”
So is James 100%? Probably not, but it’s also fair to say that no one around the NBA really is at this point, either. We probably can’t (and won’t) get a fully accurate evaluation of how LeBron is doing until the season is over, either. For now, all we can do is play our role in getting his post-career narratives started.
So let’s lean in. Michael Jordan had “The Flu Game,” but that has nothing on what I will dub “The Pirate Game,” in which James hit a game-winner despite only having one leg and one working eye:
I’m telling my kids that this is how LeBron beat Steph.
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