The Los Angeles Lakers will rest LeBron James the remainder of this week with an aggravated ankle injury, and he’ll miss back-to-back games against the LA Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. The goal is to keep King James fresh for the playoffs.
Earlier this week, the Lakers lost starting shooting guard Dennis Schroder to COVID-19, and he’s expected to miss the remainder of the regular season. Anthony Davis recently returned from a calf injury, but the Lakers limited his minutes in order to get him ready for the postseason.
The Lakers need a healthy LeBron if they expect to defend their championship title. Without LeBron, the Lakers are beatable in the postseason. With a healthy LeBron and Davis, the Lakers are title contenders.
“My thing is, I need to be healthy. I need to make sure my ankle is where it was before the injury,” said LeBron.
After LeBron suffered the ankle injury in late March, the Lakers slid as far back as the #6 spot in the Western Conference playoff hunt. Despite the fact they’re not among the top five teams in the West, the Lakers are still the consensus favorite to win the Western Conference and the second-highest favorite to win the title on the NBA futures board.
Playoff seeding is the last thing LeBron and the Lakers are worried about. Health is paramount at this crucial point of the season.
“It don’t matter where we land. That’s my mindset,” added LeBron.
LBJ Not Yet Recovered
LeBron appeared in only two games after missing 20 games with a serious ankle injury, but at this point, it’s obvious he rushed back to action too quickly.
On Monday night, LeBron sat out, which marked the 21st game he missed due to his severely sprained ankle. The LA Times reported that LeBron consulted with an ankle specialist before the team made the decision to shut him down for the rest of the week.
“I’ve got to be smart with it, but the most important thing for me is to be healthy and to be at full strength when it really matters,” explained LeBron. “I hate sitting out games and I hate not being out on the floor. But I’m also not helping myself or helping my team by being out there if I’m not at full strength.”
LeBron laced up his sneakers for the Lakers on Friday evening for the first time in nearly six weeks. A rusty LeBron missed a potential game-winning shot in a tough loss against the Sacramento Kings.
In his second game back against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, LeBron didn’t finish the game. He left the floor with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter due to excessive pain in his ankle. Without LeBron on the court in crunch time, the Lakers lost that one and dropped three in a row.
LAL On Deck: Clippers, Portland, Suns, Knicks
LeBron will miss both back-to-back road games this week against the LA Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday and Friday.
He should also miss Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns and, potentially, games next week against the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, and New Orleans Pelicans.
Without LeBron and Schroder, head coach Frank Vogel will rely heavily on his bench, particularly Kyle Kuzma, who starts in place of LeBron. Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker picked up the slack for Schroder in a surprise win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night. Caruso and Horton-Tucker combined for 21 points and six assists.