DECEMBER 27, 2:33pm: The Lakers are preparing for James to miss “several games” due to his left groin strain, league sources tell ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Adrian Wojnarowski. While LeBron avoided a serious injury, there’s a healing process that will need to occur before he gets back on the court, and the team is expected to play it safe to avoid further aggravating the injury, per Windhorst and Woj.
In the short term, the Lakers will also be without Rajon Rondo, who sprained a finger and will miss Thursday’s game in Sacramento, according to the team (Twitter link).
DECEMBER 26, 12:00pm: LeBron James‘ MRI came back clean and the Lakers superstar is listed as day-to-day, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). James suffered a “slight groin strain” in the Lakers’ 127-101 Christmas Day win over the Warriors.
The Lakers believe James will miss at least a few games, according to Chris B. Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The four-time MVP, who has rarely been injured during his 16-year career, acknowledged his disappointment with missing the remainder of Tuesday’s game.
“I take a lot of pride in [staying healthy], so that is why it pissed me off not being able to go back into the game,” James said. “It’s more than anything being available to my teammates, to my coaching staff; that is something I take more personal than anything.”
The soon-to-be 34-year-old tallied 17 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists in 21 minutes of action before leaving Tuesday’s win in the third quarter. Cameras picked up James telling trainers he felt “something pop” in his groin but reports suggested the injury could have been worse.
In 34 games this year, James has averaged 27.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG and 7.1 APG for the Lakers.
Head coach Luke Walton said the team wants James back “as soon as possible” but would take a cautious approach when he’s deemed ready to play.
Without their best player, the Lakers (20-14) stepped up to defeat the defending NBA champions by 26 points. While the fear of losing James for a prolonged stretch would be a daunting proposition, Lakers guard Josh Hart said the team would be prepared in that situation.
“The narrative is that it’s LeBron and the Lakers,” Hart said after Tuesday’s win. “Obviously, we hope he’s OK, but we’ve got a lot of good players…If he’s down, we’re ready to step up. We’re not scared of the spotlight.”
The Lakers continue their four-game schedule against fellow California teams on Thursday when they will face the Kings in Sacramento. James told reporters on Tuesday that he would not rule out playing, but Haynes’ report suggests that is unlikely. Los Angeles has three more games left in 2018, including Thursday’s tilt against Sacramento.
If James does indeed miss a few games, it’s possible he does not play until after the New Year, when the Lakers open 2019 against the Thunder on Jan. 2.
“Hopefully, it is not a long thing and I can get back on the floor as soon as possible,” James said.