Whilst it appeared that the Los Angeles Lakers were not quite ready to declare LeBron James as fit to play, he returned from injury to face city rivals the Clippers last night. Leading the team to a 123-120 win.
Recently coach Luke Walton had opened up regarding James’ recovery and progress in practice. Stating that he was moving well, driving to the paint and shooting jumpers. When the media was granted access after Monday’s practice, James was seen nailing 3-pointers.
James participated in a full-contact scrimmage a couple of days prior, his first since getting injured on Christmas Day. Post-practice Walton said: “He did more.. we did some more up and down contact today, so the day before was half court contact, today we got up and down a little bit, did some short scrimmages. He did that, and we just got a bunch of shots up.”
The Lakers were known to be taking a “day-to-day” approach with James and was listed as out for the recent loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. However, the decision was made for him to feature in the crucial game against the Clippers, a game that was going to prove vital to the current playoff picture.
James surprisingly played 40 minutes, recording a near triple-double of 24 points, 14 rebounds, 9 assists and 1 steal. Shooting 9-22 from the field and 5-7 from the free-throw line, LeBron took over as the game went into overtime, landing a mid-range jumper, a steal, and an assist to push the Lakers to victory.
The 34-year old had never missed more than 13 games in an entire season but missed his 17th consecutive game in the previous game against the 76ers. In that time, the Lakers won just six games and saw a drastic drop in the Western Conference rankings. Seeing themselves fall out of the playoff picture altogether.
Lets keep our fingers crossed that the injury curse has been lifted and the Lakers can stay healthy to mount a serious playoff push. The schedule does get brutal from now on, as five consecutive road games lie ahead. Featuring the Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, and the Philadelphia 76ers.
By Kwadwo ‘Kojo’ Larson (@kwadwo_l)