NBA

Lakers star LeBron James to be 'smart' over injured ankle

By Sports Desk May 03, 2021

LeBron James' status for the Los Angeles Lakers is unclear ahead of their meeting with the Denver Nuggets after he reinjured his right ankle in Sunday's loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Superstar James was playing for just the second time since missing 20 straight games due to a right ankle sprain, the longest injury absence during his career.

He put up 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists but exited with six minutes and 42 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and did not return to the contest.

James said he has no particular worries over the ankle, but that it is imperative for the team that he is fit and firing ahead of the postseason.

"First half it feels really good, obviously warming up for the game everything is going well," he said.

"The last two games at half-time, at the break, it's gotten a little sore on me, got a little tight, obviously coach decided not to put me back in because of that, that's it.

"I really don't have too much level of concern, but I need to be healthy and make sure my ankle is where it was before my injury.

"I need to be smart with it, talk to my trainer Mike and go over with the coaching staff and some of the players as well, most important thing to me is to be healthy and be at full strength when it really matters.

"It matters now to me because I hate sitting out games and not being out on the floor, but I'm also not helping myself or helping my team when I'm not out there at full strength."

Asked whether it is a case of wait and see for the Denver game, James replied: "That's the plan, the plan is to see how I feel, go from there.

"I definitely want to get healthy, not just for myself but for our team, it's definitely challenging right now, but I'll be fine."

The defending champions are in a lull right now, with the Raptors loss representing a sixth defeat over their previous seven games.

It leaves the Lakers seventh in the Western Conference, a finish that would require them to feature in the play-in tournament to make the playoffs – a concept James clearly has little time for.

"It doesn't matter at the end of the day if I'm not 100 per cent, close to 100 per cent it don't matter where we land," he said.

"That's my mindset, if it happens we end up as sixth, or fifth whatever the case may be, you know the playoff whatever that thing is, whoever came up with that s*** need to be fired, but whatever."

The Lakers have been blighted by injury concerns this season and had starting point guard Dennis Schroder unavailable versus Toronto due to health and safety protocols.

James believes the key to getting the Lakers firing again is having a fully fit roster available.

"Our team is predicated on health, we're a team that we need to be healthy and need to be full, if it's not one thing it's the other," he said.

"Today our starting point guard is not in the line-up, that's the biggest thing down the stretch more than the games we're playing is how healthy we're going to be going into the stretch run."

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    LeBron James is once again the talk of basketball after reports emerged on Wednesday he had agreed a two-year extension with the Los Angeles Lakers worth an eye-watering $97.1million.

    The 37-year-old had been entering the final year of a contract worth $44.5m. His new deal includes a player option for the 2024-25 season according to ESPN, citing Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul.

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    Breakout in Cleveland

    As the first pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, it was hardly surprising that James impressed from the start with the Cavaliers, averaging 20.9 points per game (PPG) in his debut season from 79 games.

    It was the 2005-06 season where he really exploded, though, averaging 31.4 PPG in the regular season, which remains his highest ever for a campaign, before recording 30.8 PPG in the playoffs, where the Cavs were eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals by the Detroit Pistons.

    James took Cleveland to the postseason for five straight seasons, agonisingly losing the 2007 Finals to the San Antonio Spurs, before taking the mantel again in 2009 as he put up 35.3 PPG in 14 playoff outings before Conference final heartbreak against the Orlando Magic.

    He had become a superstar in his home state of Ohio, though it seemed like championship glory was always going to elude him in Cleveland and so in 2010, it was time for a decision.

    LeBron brings the Heat

    The television event titled 'The Decision' did not go down universally well, it is fair to say, as James dramatically revealed he was leaving the Cavs for the Miami Heat.

    However, it turned out to be the catalyst for him to reach the next step as he was undoubtedly surrounded by more talent in Miami, and before long, much-deserved silverware.

    Linking up superbly night after night with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, James reached the Finals every year in Florida, winning his first championship in 2012, before following it up in 2013 with another.

    His numbers were ever so slightly lower at the Heat than they had been in Cleveland, though that clearly owed to having more help from the likes of Wade and Bosh.

    James' first title win 2012 saw him average 30.3 PPG during the postseason, and led the way as he got some revenge on the Spurs in 2013, excelling in Game 7 to win his second championship.

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    In 2014, James came back to Cleveland with the desire to take his team to the promised land with him this time, and he did just that.

    Just as he had in Miami, James went to the Finals every year of his second spell with the Cavaliers, and every year they played against the dominant Golden State Warriors.

    After losing 4-2 in 2015, they returned to get revenge in 2016 as James starred on their way to an almost Hollywood-ending win against the Warriors, securing their first NBA championship.

    They were unable to repeat the trick as the Warriors beat them in both the 2017 and 2018 Finals, but reaching four Finals in a row was still more than Cavs fans could have realistically expected.

    Unfortunately for them, James was getting itchy feet again.

    L.A. dreams not always what they are cracked up to be

    James himself had a solid enough start to life in Los Angeles, posting 27.4 PPG for the Lakers in 2018-19, though injury issues sustained by him and several of his new team-mates led to a wobbly season, and therefore, no postseason for the first time for James since 2005.

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    James also reached a notable landmark in March, becoming the first player in NBA history to record 10,000 assists and 10,000 rebounds in a career.

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    Injuries permitting, it is also practically certain he will overtake Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA's all-time leading scorer next season (currently 1,325 points behind).

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    Speaking to Stats Perform, Irwin said he lists James ahead of Michael Jordan and former Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when it comes to judging the best player of all time.

    "I have him as the greatest ever, in my book," he said. "Now, we're splitting hairs anytime you're talking about him and Michael and Kareem, who for some reason is never like involved in the conversation in ways that I think he should be.

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    Irwin – who hosts Lakers podcasts on Silver Screen and Roll – was pleased with the reported agreement between the organisation and James, believing it could make things easier for the Lakers as they look to move Russell Westbrook on.

    "It's good that all parties came to the conclusion that they couldn't have this loom over the season or training camp," Irwin added. "I think if LeBron was going to continue his relationship with the Lakers, they had to either announce an exit strategy or announce an extension. Fortunately, they came to the latter decision.

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