LeBron James

Pacific Notes: Ibaka, Kuzma, Fox, Lee

Serge Ibaka has joined the Clippers on their road trip, leaving open the possibility he will play before the postseason, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. He won’t play against Toronto on Tuesday, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Ibaka, who holds a $9.72MM option on next season’s contract, hasn’t played since March 14 due to a back injury.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kyle Kuzma was held out of Sunday’s game due to lower back tightness, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Kuzma, who signed a three-year, $39MM extension in December, shot 2-for-11 from the field on Friday in a loss to Portland. The Lakers forward is averaging 12.8 PPG.
  • Kings guard De’Aaron Fox would like to see the Kings front office exercise some patience, he told Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated. He’s weary of the constant tinkering of the roster. “If you’re not winning as a team, guys get traded, guys who were barely hanging on … get cut and are out the league and coaches get fired,” Fox said, while adding that the top teams have “players play together longer and develop chemistry, and coaches continue to grow and trust all their players.”
  • Warriors guard Damion Lee got up some shots on the court Monday for the first time since clearing the league’s health and safety protocols, Kendra Andrews of NBCS tweets. Coach Steve Kerr said he’s unsure when Lee will return to game action. Lee contracted COVID-19 even after he had been fully vaccinated.

LeBron James Targeting Tuesday For Return

7:35pm: James is listed as out for Tuesday’s game, though Jovan Buha of The Athletic notes that he was listed as out against Sacramento before his previous return from injury (Twitter link).

9:31am: Lakers star LeBron James is aiming to return from his ankle injury on Tuesday vs. the Knicks, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

A source tells Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) that James has had two “really good days of workouts at a high level” and feels great. If James is unable to get back on the floor on Tuesday, he’d target Wednesday vs. Houston for his return, per Charania and Haynes.

James, who missed 20 games due to a high ankle sprain, came back on April 30 and played in two games before that ankle injury sidelined him again. He has been out for the team’s last four contests.

Although the Lakers are fighting to avoid finishing in seventh in the West, the team is more focused on making sure LeBron and fellow star Anthony Davis are healthy for the postseason, rather going all-out to move up to sixth and avoid the play-in tournament.

Still, getting James back in the lineup before the regular season ends would help get him up to speed and build chemistry among the club’s top lineups, which would benefit the Lakers whether they finish sixth or seventh.

Currently, Portland is a game ahead of the Lakers for the No. 6 seed and also controls the tiebreaker. L.A. has four winnable games left (vs. NYK, vs. HOU, at IND, and at NOP), but even if the Lakers finish 4-0, they’d have to count on the Blazers losing at least two of their remaining games (vs. HOU, at UTA, at PHX, vs. DEN) in order to pass them in the standings.

LeBron James Expected To Miss At Least Two More Games

After leaving Sunday’s loss early due to right ankle soreness, Lakers star LeBron James likely won’t return to action until at least next Sunday, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

According to Wojnarowski, James is expected to miss Thursday’s game vs. the Clippers and Friday’s vs. Portland as he rests his troublesome ankle. LeBron, who also sat out Monday’s contest vs. Denver, missed 20 games due to a right high ankle sprain and had only been back for two games when he reaggravated the injury.

As Woj notes, the expectation is that the 36-year-old will proceed cautiously with his ankle, focusing on getting healthy for the postseason. James had suggested on Sunday night that he was prioritizing the playoffs over fighting for regular season seeding.

“It doesn’t matter at the end of the day (where the Lakers land in the standings) if I’m not 100% or close to 100%,” James said, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

While LeBron’s stance makes sense, his ongoing absence will put the team at greater risk of losing its grip on a top-six seed in the West — a seventh-place finish would mean having to participate in at least one play-in game to secure a postseason spot. As we noted earlier today, Friday’s game in Portland is particularly important, since the Lakers and Blazers are neck-and-neck in the standings and Friday’s winner will gain a tiebreaker advantage.

Lakers Notes: Gasol, Matthews, LeBron, Lowry

The Lakers got important contributions from two little-used veterans as they ended a three-game losing streak Monday night, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Marc Gasol, who has seen his playing time cut sharply since the addition of Andre Drummond, posted 10 points, seven rebounds and a plus-17 rating in 17 minutes. Wesley Matthews scored eight points while hitting all three of his shots from the field.

“I think we have to start thinking more as a team, instead of mentioning guys,” Gasol said. “It’s more who we are as a team and who we’re going to be. Everyone tied to one another regardless of your situation. You play zero minutes, you play 20 minutes, the team success is everyone’s success.”

Both players joined the Lakers as free agents in November, with Gasol getting a two-year deal and Matthews signing for one year. They both expected larger roles, but are trying to make the most of their opportunities as the playoffs near.

“Like I said, basketball, it’s just like life, it’s unpredictable,” Matthews said. “You don’t know what may or may not happen, but you got to be prepared for it. You got to continue to go on. You can either go on with it or it goes on without you.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • LeBron James sat out Monday’s game and is considered day-to-day after aggravating his right ankle injury, Turner tweets. L.A. doesn’t play again until Thursday, and James’ status for that game is uncertain.
  • The Lakers may regret not making a greater effort to trade for Kyle Lowry at the deadline, contends Eric Koreen of The Athletic. L.A. was limited in what it could offer, but Koreen believes there was an opportunity to swoop in after the Sixers and Heat dropped out of the bidding. The Lakers reportedly weren’t willing to part with Talen Horton-Tucker, which left nothing else that the Raptors were interested in.
  • This year’s struggles have shown the dangers of building a team around James, who is 36, and Davis, who has been injury-prone throughout his career, writes Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times. He also notes that both players returned from their injuries to a different team, as the Lakers signed Drummond and Ben McLemore while they were out and made other changes to their rotation.

Pacific Notes: LeBron, Suns, Beverley, Warriors

After leaving Sunday’s game midway through the fourth quarter due to a sore right ankle, Lakers star LeBron James will miss the club’s game on Monday vs. Denver as a result of the same issue, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. James’ status for L.A.’s next game – against the Clippers on Thursday – is uncertain, Charania adds.

The fact that LeBron will miss tonight’s game isn’t a major surprise, despite the fact that the Lakers are fighting to secure the fifth or sixth seed in the West. After last night’s game, the four-time MVP suggested that getting healthy was more of a priority than chasing regular season wins down the stretch.

“It doesn’t matter at the end of the day (where the Lakers land in the standings) if I’m not 100% or close to 100%,” James said, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • While Suns owner Robert Sarver has faced plenty of criticism over the years for the way he has run the franchise, it appears he got it right when he hired first-time general manager James Jones to run the team’s front office, as Jabari Young of CNBC writes. “The thing about Robert that has not changed or ever will change is his passion and his desire to win and his commitment to winning,” Suns CEO Jason Rowley said. “He’s gotten better and matured as an owner, as anybody does in a position that’s new to them.”
  • Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, who has been out since April 8 due to a fractured hand, was able to do 5-on-5 work in practice, according to head coach Tyronn Lue, who said the team will see how Beverley’s hand responds before providing an update on his status (Twitter link via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN). If Beverley feels good, he should be on track to return to action later this week.
  • With Minnesota playing well as of late, Ethan Strauss of The Athletic explores whether there’s a chance that the Warriors could end up with a better shot at a top-five pick with their own first-rounder than with the Timberwolves’ selection.

LeBron James Exits Game Due To Ankle Pain, Criticizes Play-In Format

After the Lakers lost for the sixth time in their last seven games on Sunday night, forward LeBron James became the latest star player to criticize the NBA’s new play-in tournament that will determine the final two playoff teams in each conference, as Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes.

“Whoever came up with that s–t needs to be fired,” James said.

Last month, Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Doncic and owner Mark Cuban both offered similar assessments of the play-in format, with Doncic saying he didn’t see the point of it and Cuban calling it an “enormous mistake” to have implemented it this season.

As was the case with Doncic’s and Cuban’s comments, it’s impossible to accept LeBron’s critique at face value without considering his team’s place in the standings. After starting the season with a 21-6 record, the Lakers have gone just 15-22 and are now in a three-way tie for fifth place in the West — Dallas, Portland, and L.A. have matching 36-28 records, so if the Lakers’ slump continues in the season’s final two weeks, they’ll likely find themselves participating in a play-in game.

It’s probably safe to assume that LeBron wouldn’t be speaking out against the play-in format if the Lakers comfortably held a top-four seed — especially since he favored a play-in tournament to determine the last playoff team prior to last summer’s restart, as Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report notes (via Twitter).

Still, it sounds as if LeBron’s frustration with the format comes from a similar place as Cuban’s — the Mavericks owner wasn’t necessarily against the play-in tournament in general, but said that it was a mistake to introduce it during a compressed season, following a shortened offseason.

The play-in format makes the regular season results more important at a time when the league has squeezed 72 games into a 146-day calendar (instead of 82 in 177), meaning teams have to fight harder for their position in the standings when they may prefer to be resting key players and getting them healthy.

In James’ case, he recently returned from a right ankle sprain that sidelined him for 20 games, but it appears he’s still bothered by that injury. As McMenamin writes, the 36-year-old left Sunday’s loss midway through the fourth quarter due to right ankle soreness and didn’t return.

“I definitely want to get healthy. Not only for myself, but for our team,” James said. “I need to make sure my ankle is where it was before the injury. I’ve got to be smart with it.”

L.A. Notes: Leonard, Clippers, LeBron, Lakers’ Centers

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard revealed that he has been dealing with a sore right foot for several weeks, but said it’s “nothing significant,” writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Saturday marked Leonard’s first game since April 18, but he said the injury occurred before then.

“I’m feeling good,” he said. “We took the proper steps to get me right, to make sure nothing significant is wrong with me … so hopefully we can just keep moving up from here.”

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Clippers are focused on rebuilding chemistry ahead of the playoffs, Youngmisuk adds. In addition to Leonard’s absence, starting center Serge Ibaka has missed the last 25 games with an injured back and Patrick Beverley has only played in two of the last 26 because of hand surgery and other injuries. That’s why Leonard traveled with the team on its most recent road trip, even though he didn’t expect to play.

“Just making sure the team sees my face,” he said. “Just wanted to still be in that motion, be in that rhythm and most importantly letting guys know I’m here and, you know, just let them hear my voice and see my face.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The Clippers face the challenge of building a new narrative in the playoffs, contends Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Until it has a breakthrough, the organization will be haunted by its past failures, including letting a 3-1 lead slip away in the second round last season.
  • LeBron James return on Friday happened earlier than even his Lakers teammates expected, according to Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. James admitted feeling frustrated while being out of action for 41 days with a high-ankle sprain. “That’s the stressful side when you know that if you were on the floor, you could make those plays and you could help your teammates win, but you know you can’t physically be out there to do it,” he said. “It’s both sides of the coin, giving my teammates pointers and things I see on the floor, but also having that stressful point where you know you can’t affect the game because you know you can’t play.”
  • In a separate story, Goon looks at the Lakers‘ situation at center, where there probably won’t be enough postseason minutes to satisfy Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell. Gasol has seen his playing time reduced since Drummond was added, but Goon notes that he could be useful if the Lakers need to spread the floor in a playoff series.

LeBron James: “I Don’t Think I Will Ever Get Back To 100%”

The Lakers got a major jolt in the arm on Friday with the return of LeBron James, who missed 20 games over a six-week stretch due to an ankle injury. It was the longest injury-related absence in James’ Hall of Fame career.

Los Angeles lost to the Kings despite James’ return as he missed a potential game-winner in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, LeBron looked good, recording 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and five turnovers in 32 minutes. James admitted he felt his injured ankle at times but was able to come out strong.

“For my first game in six weeks, I felt OK,” James said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “As far as my wind, I felt pretty good. As far as my ankle, it was a little tight at times, obviously. … But I came out unscathed and pretty good. So it’s a good start.”

James, 36, went on to make a surprising admission in regards to his health for the rest of his career. In his 18th NBA season, James has a lot of mileage on his body and while his performance continues to be strong, he admitted he will likely never be at full strength again.

“I knew I wasn’t going to get back to 100%. It’s impossible,” he said. “I don’t think I will ever get back to 100% in my career.”

The Lakers will hope James can be as close to 100% as possible as the team tries to finish strong heading into the postseason. The defending champions now have James and fellow superstar Anthony Davis back from injury. Los Angeles struggled in their absence, falling to a 36-27 record, good for fifth in the Western Conference.

“It’s only nine games left,” James said. “It’s just been … it’s been a hell of a season, obviously. … But we look forward to the challenge. It is what it is. This is the season, and we’ve got to make the most out of it.”

LeBron James Returns To Lakers On Friday

7:47pm: The Lakers have officially confirmed that James will be able to play against the Kings, tweets Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register.

1:49pm: Lakers star LeBron James is on the verge of returning from the high ankle sprain that has sidelined him for the team’s last 20 games, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

According to Wojnarowski, James has been upgraded to questionable for Friday’s contest vs. the Kings. The four-time MVP plans to test his ankle during warmups and make a game-time decision on his availability. If he’s not ready to go tonight, he’d tentatively target Sunday vs. Toronto for his comeback, Woj adds.

Although James missed more total games in 2018/19 (27) than he has so far this season (21), the 20-game stretch since March 20 represents his single-longest absence during his 18-year NBA career.

Whether his return comes today, Sunday, or sometime next week, the Lakers will welcome back their All-Star forward with open arms. The team began the season on a 28-13 run, but has gone just 8-13 since the game in which LeBron got hurt.

Home-court advantage is almost certainly out of reach for the Lakers, who are 5.5 games back of the fourth-seeded Nuggets, but getting the 36-year-old back in their lineup would put them in position to secure the No. 5 seed. Currently, L.A. has just a one-game lead on the sixth-seeded Mavs and a two-game lead on the No. 7 Trail Blazers.

Pacific Notes: LeBron, Schröder, Holmes, Nader

Lakers star LeBron James could be back on the court next week, a source tells Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. The source has received reports from James’ workouts and said he has shown progress in his rehab from a high-ankle sprain. Goon lists possible return dates as Monday against the Nuggets, next Thursday against the Clippers or next Friday against the Trail Blazers.

Goon’s story echoes a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski over the weekend that James was close to returning. He has been sidelined since suffering the injury in a March 20 game.

Coach Frank Vogel told reporters there’s still no firm date for James to start playing again. He also refused to speculate on whether James will be used in back-to-back games for the rest of the regular season.

“He’ll tell me when he’s ready,” Vogel said. “He and the medical team will tell me when he’s ready. They’re having conversations about it each day. They’re monitoring his progression each day, seeing where he’s at and when he’s ready to play, he’ll play.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers guard Dennis Schröder is playing in his 58th game tonight, which moves him closer to a couple of contract bonuses, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. He will be eligible to receive a $250K bonus if the Lakers make the NBA Finals and another $250K if they repeat as champions. Schröder must play in at least half of the team’s postseason games to receive the money.
  • Kings center Richaun Holmes is campaigning for a spot on the All-Defensive Team, writes Jordan Ramirez of NBA.com. Holmes is valuable on both ends of the court, averaging 1.6 blocks per night and ranking second in the league in field goal percentage at 64.4%. “I just want to show the type of player that I am, just show that I’m one of the best two-way players, just show that I’m deserving of the All-Defensive Team and just continue to show (what I can do),” Holmes said. “I want to continue to get better on the floor and just let my numbers and things of that sort prove my case.”
  • Suns forward Abdel Nader is out indefinitely after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee this week, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.