Monday, July 15, 2024

LeBron James back in Lakers’ lineup after 2-game absence

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LOS ANGELES — LeBron James was back in the Lakers’ lineup for Friday night’s home game against the San Antonio Spurs after missing the previous two regular-season games because of left ankle peroneal tendinopathy.

James received treatment on the ankle during the All-Star break, missing the Lakers’ Feb. 14 victory over the Utah Jazz before the break and Thursday’s road loss to the Golden State Warriors, the first night of a back-to-back set.

James, who was named an All-Star for a record-breaking 20th time, only played in the first half of the Western Conference’s 211-186 loss to the Eastern Conference on Sunday night in Indianapolis.

The four-time league MVP, who is in his 21st NBA season, has played in 50 of the Lakers’ 58 games so far after playing 54 of 82 regular-season games last season.

“If you see him work, been able to watch him for years from afar, but not really know the intricate details, just what’s being reported about the time and resources he spends on his body,” Coach Darvin Ham said. “But now having been with him for a year and some change now, going on two seasons, two full seasons, you see the work he puts in from the nutrition, the sleeping habits, the way it’s all calculated and planned out through a day, whether it’s a game or non-game day. And his whole preparatory and recovery process, it’s not surprising at all.”

The Lakers were still without Christian Wood (left knee effusion), Cam Reddish (sprained right ankle), Gabe Vincent (recovering from knee surgery) and forward Jarred Vanderbilt (right foot sprain).

They’ve been one of the league’s most injury-plagued teams this season, but they still entered Friday above .500 with a 30-27 record.

“That’s evidence of Bron and [Anthony Davis] not really contributing to that [injury] ranking, just to put it plain and simple,” Ham said. “Our two big dogs have been available to us for a majority of this season and thank God for them. But having said that, yeah, it’s frustrating because when you don’t have bodies in the lineup, it alters so much from minutes played, the way you set up your rotation, matchups, defensive schemes, everything. What you’re able to do with the intangibles of offensive rebounds, getting deflections, it puts a lot of pressure on your lineup.

“But having said that, I will also say everyone in that locker room, when they’ve been available, have done a great job with the next-man mentality and fighting with whatever they have, whatever they have to give, whether it’s all out or on a minute’s restriction when they’re on the floor, they’re really trying to compete at a high level and play the right way. And thus, in spite of all those unfortunate circumstances that’s beyond our control, we sit where we sit.”

Davis was downgraded to questionable entering Friday’s game because of Achilles tendinopathy and left hip spasms that he’s dealt with for a significant part of the season before being upgraded to available an hour before tipoff.

“He’s managing it well,” Ham said. “Just said ‘what’s up’ to him and he gave me the head nod and the salute. So he’s in a good place mentally, spiritually. Things should be better. We want things to be better in terms of our positioning.

“But we definitely have a fighting chance, and we definitely have a huge light at the end of the tunnel. We just gotta put it all together and get some bodies back. He’s done a phenomenal job of taking care of himself and making sure he’s available and just playing at an extremely high level on both sides of the ball.”

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