As the Lakers cling to the hope of making the play-in game as the season winds down into its final week, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are both eyeing returns on Friday. Davis’ rehab has progressed to the point that Friday’s game against the Pelicans is the target date for himself and the team, while LeBron’s status will be a game-time decision, according to multiple reports on Thursday.
Both are expected to miss Thursday’s game against the Jazz, obviously, but it sounds like they are trying to be back in the lineup on Friday.
James, out since Sunday with the left ankle sprain, returned to LA to rehab mid-week. Both James and Davis are out vs. Utah tonight. Lakers are 1/2 game ahead of Spurs for final play-in spot and trailing Pelicans for ninth by 1.5 games ahead of Friday's meeting in LA.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 31, 2022
Lakers star Anthony Davis plans to return Friday vs. the Pelicans, barring setback, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Davis has been sidelined since Feb. 14 due to mid-foot sprain. Big Lakers-Pelicans game with Play-In ramifications.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 31, 2022
Key here is Woj saying, “Anthony Davis won’t be 100% in his return for the Lakers” pic.twitter.com/092DJ3n8kk— Dr. Evan Jeffries, DPT (@GameInjuryDoc) March 31, 2022
James sprained his ankle in Sunday’s loss to the Pelicans, and while he finished the game, the swelling after the contest had sidelined him in games against Dallas on Tuesday and Utah on Thursday.
That he did not stay with the team in Utah and returned to Los Angeles to receive treatment on his ankle is noteworthy, and perhaps a sign of his desire to get back onto the court before season’s end.
Update: LeBron returned to Los Angeles to have his ankle evaluated further, and continue to get treatment, with team permission. https://t.co/EtZ9u51IoC— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) March 30, 2022
If both James and Davis return to the court on Friday, it’d be the first time the pair have played together since Davis’ injury on Feb. 16. Assuming Russell Westbrook is available to join them, it’d be just the 21st time the trio has taken the floor together this season, as they’ve spent just 376 minutes alongside each other over the course of the year.
Injuries have played a key role in the Lakers' struggles this season, as they sit in 10th place in the Western Conference ahead of Thursday’s game against the Jazz. This late into the season, each game carries significance, but Friday’s game against the Pelicans will be the final contest of the season against either team the Lakers are directly competing against in New Orleans and San Antonio for a spot in the play-in game, so that one has extra value.
James and the Lakers are aware of that, which likely leads to his push to get back onto the court within the same week of a nasty-looking ankle sprain. Even at less than 100%, LeBron is far more talented than any other options the Lakers have available in his absence.
If both can return on Friday, it makes the race for the final play-in spot all the more intriguing over the final week of the season.