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LeBron James day-to-day with ‘unbearable’ pain in foot, out vs. Warriors

LeBron James will miss his second game in a row with the nebulous diagnosis “left ankle soreness” on Saturday, despite the Lakers saying all his imaging is coming back clean.

Milwaukee Bucks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

LeBron James, who was initially listed as questionable against the Golden State Warriors, has been downgraded to “out” with what the Lakers are only calling “left ankle soreness,” the team announced on Saturday. This is the second game in a row James will miss with this injury, but that undersells how long he’s been dealing with it.

The Lakers have been listing James on their injury report with “left ankle soreness” for the last 35 games. This will only be his seventh missed game with the diagnosis, but it’s the first games he’ll have missed consecutively in that frame.

But whether you think the team is only listing a real, but mostly insignificant issue so they can rest him for scheduled maintenance without getting fined by the NBA, or if you actually think they believe his playing status has been in some level of doubt for the last 35 games, it’s clear he’s long been dealing with something in his lower left leg.

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham already said on Thursday that the 38-year-old star had already received imaging on the foot that only showed normal “wear and tear,” a message general manager Rob Pelinka repeated to the media on Saturday morning:

On Saturday evening during his pregame availability, Ham said that James would be “day-to-day” moving forward:

Yes, Dan, Kyle and I wrote foot, despite the Lakers listing James with “left ankle soreness” because that appears to be where James is actually feeling the pain. And while in a vacuum, those updates from Ham and Pelinka sound promising... they are at least slightly incongruous with a) the reality that James is now missing two games in a row and b) the other reporting that is out there.

For example, Chris Haynes reported on his new podcast with fellow insider Marc Stein, “#thisleague UNCUT,” that the pain James is dealing with is far more significant than the team is letting on:

“I was told, that Tuesday game, the record-breaking game, I was told LeBron was severely struggling with that foot injury he has. It’s something that’s been nagging him for a few weeks already, but it gets to points where it just gets unbearable. And he plays through it, and... people that talked to me said he was really struggling with that foot. The way it was explained to me is that sometimes it flares up, different sides of his foot, depending on the cut, the way that he plants certain times, but the way it’s explained to me is that it’s something that might linger all season long.

“It reached a dire point, but what’s interesting is that he sat out Thursday’s game they said because of an ankle injury, not the foot, so that’s something to monitor as the season goes along as well. Like I think that’s going to be something he’s probably going to deal with throughout the course of the season... I was told it reached a pretty unbearable point Tuesday against OKC.”

That transcript doesn’t sound any better aloud than it reads:

So what’s really going on? It’s not really clear right now. It’s certainly possible the Lakers and James are just being cautious... but even counting tonight, the team only has 26 games left to fight their way back into the Western Conference play-in/playoff picture, and a decent amount of ground to make up (they are currently 25-31, in 13th place, and four games in the loss column behind the Utah Jazz for the 10th and final play-in spot).

Add in that the pain James is dealing with at least sounds serious, and it’s hard not to be at least a little concerned about the team’s prospects, even in the wake of their trade deadline activity.

The Lakers and Warriors will tip off without James at 5:30 p.m. PT on ABC.

This breaking news story may be updated with more information and analysis as it continues to develop. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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