LeBron James returned to the court over the weekend for the Lakers after missing 20 consecutive games with an ankle injury. With Los Angeles having lost five of seven games before his return, James was supposed to provide a spark to the lineup and help the reeling Lakers to make up some of the ground that they had lost in the Western Conference standings.
Instead, the Lakers dropped both of the games that they played with James. And against the Raptors, James exited with ankle soreness after 27 minutes of action and was ruled out for the remainder of the game. As a result, he is getting ready for another absence, and it’s just a matter of whether it will be a prolonged one.
Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that James is going to miss the latter end of a back-to-back on Monday night against the Nuggets while dealing with the ankle problem. However, the more important part of the report is that James’ status for the team’s game on Thursday night is “uncertain.”
Lakers star LeBron James will miss tonight’s back-to-back vs. Denver with sore right ankle, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. His status is uncertain as of now for the next game, Thursday vs. Clippers.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 3, 2021
That the game against the Clippers comes after two full off days for the Lakers is a positive for James, as he’ll have extra time to get his ankle to full strength. However, James already being deemed “uncertain” for a game that far out certainly isn’t a good thing, and it means that the Lakers are going to be watching James very closely as he attempts to get healthy before the playoffs begin.
In addition to James’ absence, the Lakers will also be without guard Dennis Schroeder as he enters the league’s health and safety protocols. Schroeder ranks third on the team with 15.5 points per game and has been a critical part of the team’s rotation with and without James this year.
With just eight contests left in the season, every game counts for the seventh-place Lakers (36-28). They’re looking to avoid having to play in the NBA’s play-in tournament, but if James misses time the Lakers could find themselves locked into the No. 7 seed and being a part of the play-in.
That’s something that James and Co. would like to avoid, but as long as the team’s star is out it will be difficult for them to consistently string together wins. They have just an 8-13 record in 21 games without James so far this season.