Lakers star LeBron James probably will miss Thursday’s game with the Clippers and Friday’s game at Portland with a sore right ankle and could be out longer as he tries to recover from an injury that sidelined him for 20 games this year, people with knowledge of the injury said who were not authorized to speak publicly.
James missed his 21st game because of the injured ankle Monday after he was forced out of the final minutes in Sunday’s loss to Toronto.
He visited an ankle specialist this week and will be cautious in returning, possibly waiting for the team to hold a practice before he’s able to return.
After Sunday’s game, James said his ankle had responded well to pregame warmups in each of his two games back after missing a month, but at halftime he experienced stiffness and soreness in the joint.
“My thing is I need to be healthy. I need to make sure my ankle is where it was before the injury,” he said. “I’ve got to be smart with it. I’ll talk to my trainer Mike [Mancias] and go over it with the coaching staff and talk over with some of the players as well, but the most important thing for me is to be healthy and to be at full strength when it really matters.
“It matters now to me, you know, because 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.”
James had been one of the NBA’s top MVP candidates before suffering a high ankle sprain March 20 against the Atlanta Hawks. He’s averaging 25 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.8 assists this season. The Lakers are 8-14 this season when James hasn’t played.
James appeared in two games before the ankle was too painful to continue.
“You never know until you get out there because honestly some of the sharp pain that I’m feeling or the pain that I’m feeling on the floor I didn’t have during my workouts, during my training or during my running,” he said. “… The only opportunity for me to get some live [play] was during the game. I don’t want to say I came back too early, but at the end of the day I had to test it out and see where I was at.”
The Lakers are currently fifth in the Western Conference, one game ahead of seventh and a spot in the NBA’s postseason play-in tournament. Question is, when will James be back to help the Lakers’ standing?
“It doesn’t matter at the end of the day if I’m not 100% or close to 100%,” James said of the Lakers’ seeding. “It don’t matter where we land. That’s my mindset.”