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Reports say LeBron James could return early and he says no. What now for the Lakers?

AS USA 3/24/2023 Paul Rudder
With James himself denying reports of an early return, the Lakers now face a critical stretch of games without their star and that’s not good. © Jayne Kamin-Oncea (Reuters) With James himself denying reports of an early return, the Lakers now face a critical stretch of games without their star and that’s not good.

Though he is making progress, the Lakers star won’t be returning as soon as some had expected, which of course leads to the question of whether the Lakers can secure a playoff spot without him.

LeBron James denies reports of early return

Earlier this week, reports indicated that Los Angeles Lakers star, LeBron James, had stopped wearing his walking boot and in turn had begun on-court activities. This of course led to various reports suggesting that James would in fact return for the final week of the regular season. Yet, with the Lakers having not given any official timeline for a return and James himself denying that such reports were true, it now seems that he won’t be suiting up to play following the foot injury that he suffered back on February 26th.

As you can imagine, that places the Lakers in a precarious spot. On the one hand, they’re on the verge of securing a spot in the play-in tournament as they sit on a 36-37 record. On the other hand, they are currently 10th in the West with not many games left in the regular season. When you consider that only three games separate the fourth place Suns from the 12th place Pelicans, it’s doable for LA, but it’s going to be complicated and even more so if James remains absent.

What are the Lakers facing?

Quite simply, the Lakers are going to have to win a few games without James on the court and they’re going to have to do so against other teams that want a playoffs spot as well. From Oklahoma City Thunder to the Chicago Bulls (twice), the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Houston Rockets and possibly the Utah Jazz, it’s going to be a bumpy road in the coming weeks. When you consider that the Lakers have gone 12-14 while averaging 5.4 points less without James in the team, things begin to look bleak.

Indeed, if the initial reports are to be believed, James will likely be out for another 5-6 games meaning in an ideal scenario, he will return for the game against the Jazz on April 4th or on April 5th when the Lakers face the Clippers. It’s worth noting that the Lakers’ final three games are all at home, which in itself could be a good target for both he and the team, if they can make it there with playoff hopes still intact.

What happened to LeBron James?

If you missed it, the injury occurred last month during a game against the Dallas Mavericks. During the third quarter with 3:17 on the clock, James drove to the basket and unfortunately ended up falling. He would later state that he heard a ‘pop’ in his foot. Though he did in fact return to the game, finishing with 26 points, he could be seen limping and in visible discomfort. James was later ruled out of the next game and reports suggested he would be out for “an extended period of time.” Prior to his injury the four-time league MVP was averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists during a season in which he became the NBA’s all-time points leader.

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