ATLANTA – On Sunday morning, LeBron James was in Los Angeles.
Ending the trip a day early wasn’t in the plans for the 37-year-old, but as his left knee continued to swell, the Lakers’ concerns grew as well.
James missed his third game in a row on Sunday afternoon with left knee pain now becoming a long-term problem. Coach Frank Vogel said he was flown home on Saturday for treatment, and as long as the swelling persists, he will not be playing.
The team was so worried that they had to take an MRI of James’ knee, where only swelling was seen. However, the uncertain nature of James’ latest injury added stress to the a team that has faced unrelenting absences since the season began.
The Lakers entered Sunday against the Hawks just 5-9 without James on the roster. But with Anthony Davis back and Russell Westbrook continuing to keep his form in every game, Vogel dismissed the excuse.
“We had to do it without LeBron,” Vogel said. “We have enough. But we have to play a little bit better than what we played.”
James was humorously playing at MVP level before missing Thursday’s game in Philadelphia with a sore knee. He averaged 29.1 points (second highest in the NBA), 7.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists while shooting with a 58.8% effective scoring rate. More than a month before Davis’s absence, James only started his game playing many minutes in the center: Since December 19, he has averaged 32.5 points while scoring 25 or more points in every game he plays.
In Miami, a game before Davis returned, James said he didn’t expect to reduce his workload.
“I’m in one of the best areas I’ve been in my career,” he said. “And I have no plans to stop.”
The biggest hurdle for the Lakers has been the lack of their stars on the field together this season: In 51 games, Davis, James and Westbrook have played together in just 16.
Davis said on Thursday that Many in the team were surprised when James was sidelined after how well he had played. The unfortunate irony is that it has happened a lot in the past two seasons.
“There’s nothing we’re not used to – he missed a number of games earlier this year,” Davis said. “We’re used to that, but obviously, he’s a big part of what we’re trying to do and what we’re doing. He played out of his mind.”
The Lakers’ next game is Wednesday at home against Portland. Vogel said it was “a possibility” that James could return later.
Even if he does get back into the game, it could force the Lakers to take a more serious look at offloading his workload. James currently averages 36.6 minutes per game, which is the 5th highest average in the NBA. If he holds that average for the rest of the season, that would be his highest minutes-per-game count since his final season at Cleveland in 2018.
“I think about it every day,” he said. “We are always mindful of the load he is carrying, and are in constant communication with him and the medical team.”
https://www.sbsun.com/2022/01/30/lakers-lebron-james-flies-back-to-l-a-early-as-knee-swelling-continues/ Lakers’ LeBron James flies back to LA early as knee continues to swell – San Bernardino Sun