The Lakers are hoping the second time is the charm when it comes to LeBron James bouncing back from injury.
James is targeting Tuesday’s game against the Knicks for his return from an ankle injury, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. James is feeling “great” and has had two days of “workouts at a high level,” per Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
The 36-year-old has missed 24 of Los Angeles’ last 26 games with a high right ankle sprain. After suffering the injury in late March, James sat out 20 consecutive games, returning to the lineup on April 30 and May 2. He then experienced pain in his ankle, putting him back on the bench for another four contests. In 43 games this season, James is averaging 25.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.8 assists.
In addition to James’ absence, the Lakers have also been without Talen-Horton Tucker (calf), Kyle Kuzma (back) and Dennis Schroder (health and safety protocols) for games this past week. The lineup inconsistency has contributed to Los Angeles’ recent slide in the Western Conference standings. If the Lakers don’t move up from the No. 7 seed, they would be a participant in the NBA play-in tournament and have to earn a playoff spot.
With only four games remaining on the regular-season schedule, James has little time to work himself back into shape before the Lakers begin their quest for back-to-back championships. Despite LA’s recent struggles, All-Star forward Anthony Davis doesn’t sound concerned about the state of his squad.
“We were a great team last year, and this is the first time since I’ve been here that we ran into a challenge,” Davis said after the Lakers defeated the Suns on Sunday. “This is a different challenge for us. Since I’ve been here, we’ve never been less than [the No. 3 seed], maybe? This is new for us. This is different for us.
“I think our entire team is taking on that challenge and tackling it head on. We’ve got that mindset where [it’s] control what we can control. Go out there and do what we do, play Lakers basketball and let the rest take care of itself. It’s fun. It’s a challenge for us, and every challenge, we can’t shy away from it. We gotta have fun with it.”