LeBron James was officially re-evaluated by the Lakers on Thursday, and while the general takeaway was pretty vague without a return date or timeline, the general feeling around the news was an optimistic one. Even before the Lakers announced that LeBron had moved to more on-court activity and “gradual basketball movement progression” — whatever that is — the reports around him on the day were one of hopefulness for a return.
On SportsCenter on Thursday morning, Dave McMenamin reported that LeBron was aiming to return sometime in the final three games of the season, ideally against the Clippers on April 5.
Dave McMenamin: “A league source familiar with LeBron James’ thinking told me that he believes LeBron will push [to play] over the final 3 games the Lakers play in Los Angeles.” pic.twitter.com/MlukYRLY2m— pickuphoop (@pickuphoop) March 23, 2023
When the Lakers announced the results of LeBron being re-evaluated, a number of other reports indicated much of the same that he was looking to return in the final week of the season.
There’s an increasing optimism that Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James could return to play “a few” games in the final week of the regular season, sources tell ESPN. James has been out since suffering a right foot tendon injury on February 26. https://t.co/3lYNX6MA2Z— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 23, 2023
Lakers star LeBron James (foot tendon injury) has begun on-court activity and team says there's no timeline yet for return. Sources say James is hopeful for a return within the final 3-to-4 games of the regular season.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) March 23, 2023
Now, for whatever it’s worth, LeBron pushed back on all of this on Twitter, saying he was both not evaluated on Thursday and there was no target date for his return.
There wasn’t an evaluation today and there hasn’t been any target date for my return. I’m just working around the clock, every day(3X a day) to give myself to best chance of coming back full strength whenever that is. God bless y’all sources. ♂️ I speak for myself!— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 23, 2023
Was LeBron evaluated on Thursday? Presumably not as there’s no reason for LeBron to lie about that. Is there a target return date? That part you could probably push back on.
And if the final week of the season is an unofficial target date, it’s both a short run-up for the play-in and postseason while also being a potentially integral time for LeBron to return. Theoretically, if he was aiming for the April 5 matchup with the Clippers, it would be a great time to return. For one, it would be the second night of a back-to-back and it could already be a game Anthony Davis may or may not sit.
But those final three games would also be against three opponents the Lakers may and likely will be competing for a spot in the play-in against. The Clippers are two games ahead of the Lakers as is, the Suns are 2.5 games ahead of the Lakers and would be the penultimate opponent of the year and the Jazz are a half-game behind the Lakers and would be the final game of the season.
As has been stated many times — and something that is quite obvious — but the race is so thin that getting LeBron and winning any games can have a huge impact on the team’s standing. Add in that they’ll be going up against teams directly around them, and it could be huge to get him back for that final trio of games.
Whenever he does come back, it’ll be a very welcome return. Perhaps it’ll be the dates reported. Perhaps Lebron will return sooner with a laugh as he says “God bless y’all sources.”
Either way, it can’t come soon enough.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.