The Los Angeles Lakers announced last Thursday (March 2) that LeBron James would have his “right foot tendon injury” reevaluated in three weeks, a timeline that would put him on pace to return (at the earliest) on March 23, which is a little more than two weeks before the NBA regular season ends and the playoffs begin.
However, as Lakers fans should be more than familiar with after the last several years, the date a player is reevaluated is rarely the date that they actually return. This situation is probably no different, which may be why NBA insider Shams Charania said on FanDuel TV that he doesn’t expect James to be back on the court on that date, and that he doesn’t think the Lakers do, either (emphasis mine):
“They need LeBron James back in the lineup (but) we don’t know when that will be. Three-week reevaluation for him, and even after that, I don’t know that the Lakers think he’s going to be back in three weeks. I don’t think it’ll be just the three weeks. Likely beyond that. And so you’re putting yourself in a position where you hope he’s back right before the playoffs, or he gets back for the play-in.”
There are nine games left for the Lakers after March 23, so every day it takes James beyond that will potentially cost him more and more time to ramp up for a potential play-in or playoff appearance.
However, as our own Dr. Rajpal Brar noted on Twitter, all of this is just guesswork until the Lakers see how LeBron’s foot tendon is responding to treatment and rest. He has been wearing a full boot in every public appearance since the injury, and is using a scooter to get around at Lakers games.
Personally - I don't look too much at timelines because it's hard to project that far out, especially with injuries that are more about managing swelling/pain. The objective indicators (level of weight-bearing, activity, etc) will be more reliable.#Lakers #LeBronJames https://t.co/kesHMAyyyz— Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT (@3cbPerformance) March 6, 2023
If the Lakers are still firmly in the hunt to move up in the standings — as of this post, the team is just two games back of moving into the seventh or eighth seed, and 2.5 back of sixth place and avoiding the play-in entirely — then it’s probably fair to guess that James will be back on the sooner end of that spectrum.
Either way, the objective for the rest of the team in the interim is clear: Keep winning as much as possible during this lighter stretch of schedule, and create as advantageous a scenario as possible for James to return to so that he can ease his way back in without having to fight for the team’s life as he regains his sea legs.
Can they do that? If D’Angelo Russell indeed returns soon like the team hopes he will... probably. If his injury lingers or the team takes any other major absences, it could be tough sledding. Only time will tell.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.