The hits just keep on coming for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Anthony Davis’ return to the Lakers last week against the Nets gave the team hope of a second half of the season filled with the team’s Big Three of Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook finding their stride. But, as has been the case all season long, injuries have altered the team’s course.
James will miss his third straight game on Sunday against the Hawks with what has been described as left knee soreness. Head coach Frank Vogel revealed before the game on Sunday some more details on the extent of the injury and that James had already returned to the West Coast on Saturday to get started with treatment.
“Still has general swelling,” Vogel said. “He will not be at the game today. (He) got a head start of just getting back to LA to get treatment so he won’t be here today.”
Vogel also revealed that James has undergone an MRI that revealed just the general swelling, a positive sign even if it doesn’t get James on the floor quicker. For now, James is still considered day-to-day and the team isn’t ruling him out yet moving forward, even including Wednesday’s game against the Trail Blazers.
“As long as the swelling is there, he’s going to be out and hopefully we’ll get him back as soon as we can,” Vogel said.
James’ injury comes on the heels of one of his most impressive stretches in purple and gold, but also could be a result of that stretch. With Davis out, James shouldered a heavy load for the Lakers trying to keep them afloat. In the 17 games Davis missed, James averaged 32.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists but played 36.4 minutes per game with a usage rate of 32.4%.
While James noted numerous times that he was fine with that workload, his body may not be able to handle the load it once was able to in his career at 37 years old. Vogel noted on Sunday that it’s a constant topic of thought and conversation between him, James and the medical staff.
“I think about it every day,” Vogel said. “We’re always mindful of the load that he’s carrying. In constant communication with him and the medical team. In terms of what we do going forward with the knee and where he’s at, it’s really a heavy lean on the medical staff…and what they feel is best. It’s really not a head coach thing as much as it is we rely on the medical team.”
After their six-game road trip concludes on Sunday afternoon, the Lakers will return home to Los Angeles for their next four games, beginning with that game against Portland and stretching to Feb. 8, a span of over a week that could allow James to get the treatment needed to return to the court with the Lakers desperately need him.