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Report: LeBron James likely won’t return until around final week of regular season

Even as he may be ahead of schedule in his recovery, the expectation is that LeBron James reportedly will still not return until the final week of the regular season.

Celebrities Attend Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images

More than anything else, the ongoing storyline that is going to dictate the Lakers playoff hopes and any chance they have in the postseason is the health of LeBron James. As much as the Lakers have played surprisingly well without him and as much as they’ve shown fight and moved up the playoff standings, all of it has a pretty low ceiling without LeBron.

It’s a particularly tough balancing act for LeBron and the Lakers. Without a firm timetable on his return and little even known about the injury itself publicly, it’s hard to know how close he is or isn’t to rejoining the team.

Every report feels more like a guess, even if sometimes educated, on LeBron’s return. The latest report came from Jovan Buha of The Athletic as he appeared on Michael Scott’s HoopsHype podcast to discuss a litany of Lakers topics, including the latest on LeBron’s foot.

Buha: It’s sounding like if he does, it’s probably going to be the last week or so of the regular season. You hear conflicting things. This has been one of the tougher things to dig on. The Lakers have played this very close to the vest. There hasn’t been much out there on it. A couple of notable developments this week were he returned to the team without the walking boot over the weekend. In between quarters, he was dribbling the ball and shooting layups. It was stationary but didn’t look like a guy who was in a walking boot, limping, and arrived in one of those scooters. He’s already ahead of schedule from that perspective. At shootaround in New Orleans, he was shooting free throws and moving around. The plan is to re-evaluate him next week, which will be about 3.5 weeks since the injury.

It can only be interpreted as a good thing that LeBron returned to the court and was actively shooting the basketball. It doesn’t mean a return is imminent, but it is optimistic.

As we’ve noted many times, LeBron is doing everything he can to get back on the court. But you can’t make your body heal faster, especially with an injury like this. So, LeBron can’t speed this process along, no matter how frustrating it is.

As things stand, if he is eyeing the final week(s) of the season, there could still be plenty of time for him to make an impact. Over the final eight days of the season, the Lakers have five games. The first three of those are on the road and the final two are at home.

There’s room for him to return and help the Lakers. Time is not going to be on their side, though, and it’s going to be a tight finish to the season.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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