For the Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James has been conspicuous by his extended absence, but word from SoCal suggests that “The King” may be nearing a return to the basketball court.
It just so turns out that he might return right in time to see Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Currently on a four-game Western Conference road trip, the Sixers are coming off of a 126-110 loss to Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. The next stop on the trip is Los Angeles, where they’ll square off against the Lakers on Tuesday night.
For Los Angeles, James has missed the team’s past 15 games, and will miss his 16th on Sunday when the Lakers play host to the Phoenix Suns. James suffered a groin injury on Christmas Day and has been slowly mending, but on Saturday, seemed near to a return when, according to the Lakers, he was able to participate in “full contact defensive drills.”
LeBron James returned to full contact defensive drills for the first time since his injury, but won't play Sunday against the Suns. pic.twitter.com/e8y9z8kbI8
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 26, 2019
Usually, after a player has missed extended time, his team’s medical staff wants to see him practice at least once or twice before putting him back out on the floor. After Saturday’s practice, James will have Sunday and Monday to complete additional rehabilitation work, in theory, in time to be cleared to return on Tuesday.
That the Lakers also specifically noted that James had been ruled out for Sunday and not say, for the week, at least suggests that his return could be imminent.
Writing for Heavy.com, the astute Jeff Smith points out that Tuesday’s game versus the Sixers is the final home game for the Lakers prior to the All-Star Break. In light of that, it would make sense for the Lakers to bring James back for that game, as having him sharp for the team’s six road games makes more sense than bringing him during the stretch of road games.
The Lakers will be off on Monday before playing host to the Sixers on Tuesday, and it’s quite possible that James could make his return to the basketball court right in time to greet his buddy Ben Simmons.
Without James in the lineup, the Lakers have gone just 5-10 and have fallen to the ninth seed in the Western Conference. The eight games the team has remaining before the All-Star break may end up going a long way toward determining where they end up in the standings.
At this point, it seems safe to conclude that, barring a setback, James will return to the floor in time to see the Sixers.