After missing eight games with a groin strain, LeBron James was cleared to increase on-court basketball movements and is due to be re-evaluated for a second time on Jan. 16.
As James will miss at least two more games, the Lakers are currently 3-6 without him following their 113-95 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
With the Lakers only having a one-game lead on the Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, there is pressure on the young core to still win games while James, and Rajon Rondo for that matter, are out.
Since there has not been too much information about the 34-year-old’s recovery process, Walton addressed how James will use the next week to continue with the rehab process, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“He’s getting re-evaluated again, I think on the 16th. So for me, I got a lot of other things that we’re trying to get done between now and then. We got a great medical staff. LeBron, as you know, he takes care of himself when it comes to seeing doctors and taking care of his body. So, as soon as he’s cleared and ready to go, then we’ll get him back out there. But until then, we’ll continue to be patient with him.”
When asked about James potentially returning against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 17, Walton remained vague:
“It all depends what that evaluation tells us. If he’s fully cleared, then yeah, then we try to get him out there on the court and play some basketball. If he’s not ready, then it can’t be the final hurdle. But like I said, we got so much other things we got to take care of that we’ll just wait until the 16th to hear about him.”
At nine games and counting, this is the most time James has missed since the 2014-15 NBA season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. While James is as durable as they come, Stephen Curry had a similar injury that kept him out 11 games and he revealed that the recovery process requires plenty of patience.
The Lakers have been extremely cautious with injuries since president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka took over, so unsurprisingly this is no different. While the Lakers are trying to end their five-year playoff drought, it will not come at the expense of James’ long-term health.
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