James exited Sunday night’s game with discomfort in his right ankle; the same ankle that he sprained in March. It was only his second game since returning from his six-week absence.
After the game, James explained what he felt in his ankle and why he didn’t return.
“The first half, it feels really good,” James said. “Obviously warming up for the game, everything is going well. Then in the last two games, at halftime, after the break, it’s gotten a little sore on me, a little tight, and obviously coach decided not to put me back in towards the end because of that. That’s pretty much it.”
James said that the “sharp” pain that he felt on Monday wasn’t something he felt in the workouts he did leading up to his return on Friday and that’s because he hadn’t got any live reps before Friday. That’s something that many suspected because of how abrupt his return was, but it wasn’t confirmed until James said so on Sunday.
“The only way to test is to get out on the floor because, for one, there ain’t no damn practice time,” James said. “It’s not like you get practice time, you get 5-on-5, you get live; it’s just not the season for it and we’ve know that since the beginning so the only opportunity for me to get some live (action) was during the game.
“I don’t want to say I came back too early, but at the end of the day, I had to test it out and see where I was at.”
Going forward, James said his level of concern with his ankle is low but he also acknowledged that it’s probably not where it needs to be at this stage of the season.
“My thing is, I need to be healthy and I need to make sure my ankle is where it was before the injury,” James said. “Obviously I’ve got to be smart with it. I’ll talk to my trainer Mike and go over it with the coaching staff and talk with some of the players as well, but the most important thing for me is to be healthy and to be at full strength when it really matters.
“It matters now, to me, because I hate sitting out games and I hate not being out on the floor but I’m also not helping myself or helping my team being out there not at full strength.”
James’ status for the Lakers’ next game against the LA Clippers on Thursday is uncertain at this time, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Their next game after that is against the Portland Trail Blazers is on the second night of a back-to-back, which Frank Vogel wasn’t sure if James would play in, even before Sunday. With him sitting the second end of this one, expect the Lakers to continue to be cautious.