Varying reports about LeBron’s health leave Lakers’ playoff hopes in limbo
With less than a dozen games remaining, the Los Angeles Lakers are making their playoff push but may be shorthanded for the remainder of the regular season. Superstar LeBron James has been sidelined for weeks with a right foot injury, and the news surrounding the severity of the injury doesn’t seem to be good. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst confirmed as much.
However, James’ Lakers teammate Dennis Schroder offered a different take on James’ status.
So is James at risk of missing at least the rest of the regular season, or will he actually return with several games remaining? That might not seem like a big difference, but that difference of a few games matters a lot to the Lakers. If the season were to end today, Los Angeles would be in the play-in tournament, but with 3 weeks remaining, they are in a precarious situation.
The Lakers are still in the playoff hunt, but they need LeBron James back to ensure that they’ll make the playoffs.
It’s true that they have played better of late, but they have been helped in the standings by untimely injuries to the best players on other teams also competing for a spot in the playoffs. Even then, the Lakers’ playoff hopes are hanging by a thread. If they keep winning, Los Angeles could theoretically end up as high as the sixth seed, or if they lose, they could drop as low as the 12th in the West. The difference between them is just 2.5 games.
If Schroder is right, then the Lakers still have a chance to gain ground and secure a spot in the playoffs upon James’ return. If Windhorst is, then the Lakers could very well miss the playoffs. Schroder is around James more often, so he likely has inside knowledge about his recovery.
Then again, Windhorst has reported on James for his entire career, and his reporting is generally spot-on about these sorts of things, so he is much more likely to be right. In fact, just last week, he broke the news that Zion Williamson “wasn’t close” to returning, only for Adrian Wojnarowski to later confirm that he would miss another 2-3 weeks.
If James is really out another three weeks, would the Lakers really bring James back for the play-in tournament? James would surely want to play but that assumes that his revaluation will yield good news, which we obviously won’t know until then. As a result, the Lakers’ roller-coaster season is dependent on a 38-year-old’s recovery time, leaving their playoff hopes very much in limbo.
All in all, the Lakers still need James back, despite admirably holding down the fort without their best player. Despite that, conflicting information makes it difficult to know when or if he will be back this season.