To the shock of many — this blogger included — the Los Angeles Lakers have been rolling without LeBron James lately, winning their last three games behind some superlative performances from Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves and more of Darvin Ham’s rotating cast of role players.
But even if the team is playing well, they have done so against a soft schedule, and with James ruled out for a fifth straight game on Tuesday, it is natural to wonder just how close he is to returning. As you would expect, Ham didn’t exactly give a ton of details on that in Phoenix ahead of the team’s matchup with the Suns, but he did tell reporters that he is making sure James knows the team isn’t rushing him back (via Spectrum SportsNet):
Reporter: Is there any sign that he’s close? Has it just been soreness creeping up?
Ham: “No, it’s just day-to-day. He’s been able to get in the weight room and just continue the strengthening process, but just day-to-day. And I told him today, ‘when we get to a place where we feel comfortable going out there, we’ll get there.’ You know, the team, we got additional bodies back in Thomas (Bryant) and Dennis (Schröder) and so that’s helped, and we’re in a good rhythm right now. So there’s no rush. There’s no panic mode.”
This is not necessarily unexpected — it makes sense the team would be cautious with their soon-to-be-38-year-old star — but it is still good news, and a reminder that such patience may have been a lot less convenient for James and the organization if his teammates hadn’t taken care of business the last few games. But by virtue of missing Tuesday’s game, James will get another two full off days to rest he wouldn’t have had otherwise, and with a back-to-back against the tanking San Antonio Spurs on Friday and Saturday, the team may be able to afford to give him a bit longer to make sure he’s fully healthy while still making up ground in the standings.
Such a scenario might have seemed too good to be true a month ago, but regardless of Tuesday’s outcome, the team has done what is necessary to make sure James doesn’t have to push it to get back ASAP. As silver linings to an injury go, it’s a decent one, even if it would obviously be better if James had never been hurt at all.