Los Angeles Lakers SF LeBron James could return from injury in the final week of the regular season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Thursday. James has been sidelined since late February due to a foot injury and has been “gradually” ramping up basketball activities, per Woj.
LeBron just had to comment on the report from Woj on the potential target date. Either way, we’ll speculate off the report from Wojnarowski.
There wasn’t an evaluation today and there hasn’t been any target date for my return. I’m just working around the clock, every day(3X a day) to give myself to best chance of coming back full strength whenever that is. God bless y’all sources. ♂️ I speak for myself!— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 23, 2023
The Lakers wrap up the season with games on April 4 vs. the Utah Jazz, April 5 vs. the Los Angeles Clippers, April 7 vs. the Phoenix Suns and April 9 vs. the Jazz. Chances are LeBron would come back for at least 2-3 games that week, likely avoiding playing that back-to-back set beginning on Tuesday that week. This could have major implications on the play-in tournament picture in the Western Conference.
As of Thursday, March 23, the Lakers are 0.5 games up on the Jazz for the final play-in tournament spot in the Western Conference. The Lakers play Utah twice in that final week and could have James back for at least one of the games. That last game of the season could end up being a de factor playoff game to see who gets into the play-in field. There is also very little separation between teams in the West for the play-in tournament. Below is a look at the standings via ESPN.com.
The Suns are in fourth place in the West and 10.5 games out of first place, so not that far off the Clippers. There’s a total of 3.0 games of separation in the standings between those nine teams, which means there should be a lot of movement in the final few weeks of the season. There’s even a chance the Mavericks and Lakers both miss the playoffs entirely, play-in included.
Since James went down, the Lakers are 7-5, which isn’t half bad. Second-year guard Austin Reaves has emerged with James out, averaging 18.5 points with 5.6 assists while shooting 37.5 percent from distance in the month of March. Anthony Davis, of course, has also played well with James sidelined, averaging just over 26 points with 11.9 rebounds on 55 percent shooting from the floor in March. The Lakers should be able to tread water and sneak into the play-in tournament. L.A. has a shot at getting out of the play-in as well.