LeBron James is set to miss at least the next two games for the Los Angeles Lakers and could be out longer, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. James returned for two games after a 20-game absence with a high ankle sprain, and while he initially said he felt “pretty good” other than a little soreness in his first game back, after his second game he was mentioning how the ankle kept giving him issues in the second halves of games. He subsequently sat out against the Denver Nuggets, and now appears set to miss a few more.
And as James looks to make sure he can get as close to 100% as possible for the Lakers’ title defense, Brad Turner and Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times report that the 36-year-old is getting all the information possible and being more careful in his second return to the court:
He visited an ankle specialist this week and will be cautious in returning, possibly waiting for the team to hold a practice before he’s able to return.
The practice part there feels pretty notable. The Lakers have only practiced 14 times this entire season — they’ll have their 15th on Wednesday — and James wasn’t able to participate in a single one before returning because of the condensed schedule, something he lamented after his second game back.
“The only way to test is to get out on the floor because, for one, there ain’t no damn practice time,” James said on Sunday. “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.”
Now, it seems like James is going to be a little more cautious about his second attempt to return. We’ll see when that will ultimately be, but between this and Dennis Schröder’s extended absence, it seems like the Lakers are really, really not going to have much time to gel as a unit before the postseason. If James misses the next two games as expected, he would only have five games available to return before the postseason. And if he actually wants to wait for the team’s next practice, the Lakers have typically only done so when they have two days between games.
With only back-to-backs the rest of the way, the only two days the Lakers have off between matchups will come on Wednesday, May 14 and Thursday, May 15, the two-day break they have before their final two games of the season (also a back-to-back). So if James is actually trying to get a practice in, the Lakers will have to break with their normal routine, or he will really not have much time to ramp up for the playoffs.
Will that matter? Only time will tell, but health and talent will just have to outweigh continuity if this team is going to repeat as champions.