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Lakers’ LeBron James could return Thursday against Clippers

LeBron James
LeBron James stands near the Lakers bench during a game against the New York Knicks on Jan. 4.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

A shirtless LeBron James went through a series of shooting drills Monday after participating in practice. He shot free throws and three-pointers with two assistant coaches, ramping up his workload for a possible return to the Lakers lineup.

But after James took part in more contact work and a short full-court scrimmage, Lakers coach Luke Walton said the team would take a “day-by-day” approach before deciding when James will be back.

James has been sidelined since suffering a strained groin during a Dec. 25 game against the Golden State Warriors at Oakland. He has sat out 16 games and was ruled out of Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Walton was asked for a status report on James, whose earliest return would be Thursday night against the Clippers. According to several sources familiar with James’ rehab, the Lakers are hopeful James could return Thursday.

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“We’ll see how he feels tonight,” Walton said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow morning and we’ll just keep taking it day by day and see how he’s doing.”

James participated in some full-contact portions of practice Saturday, the first time he had done so since he was injured.

He would like to practice a few more times before playing in a game, according to several sources with knowledge of his recovery that were not authorized to speak publicly on James’ injury.

If the Lakers have a shootaround Tuesday, James probably will take part in that it as well as a practice Wednesday and another shootaround Thursday.

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One source stipulated that given the mercurial nature of groin injuries, it’s difficult to know for sure how James’ body will react to this week’s practices. James has had no setbacks during the rehabilitation process.

“We did three-minute scrimmages so, again, we’ll see how his body responds to that and then from there we’ll take it, as far as making those scrimmages longer or if he says, ‘Hey I feel great, see if I can play,’” Walton said. “Then we’ll make those adjustments.”

Walton said the Lakers would like for James to get in a “full practice,” but that the All-Star forward “continues to do more and continues to look better.”

“He’s not driving the lane and tomahawk dunking on people right now,” Walton said, smiling. “But he’s moving well and he’s getting to the paint and shooting jumpers and all those type of things.”

Injury update

Walton said that Kyle Kuzma (hip strain) and Josh Hart (knee tendinitis) didn’t practice Monday, but he was hopeful they both would play Tuesday.

Kuzma sat out Sunday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns after his hip began to bother him during Thursday night’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Hart has played through pain in his knee, although he exited early Sunday.

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Walton said that center Tyson Chandler, who has sat out the last two games to rest, will be activated for Tuesday’s game.

UP NEXT

VS PHILADELPHIA

When: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday.

On Air: TV: TNT; Radio: 710, 1330.

Update: The 76ers started a four-game trip with a 126-110 loss at Denver on Saturday without Jimmy Butler (sprained wrist) and Joel Embiid (sore back). Both are expected to play Tuesday.

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Twitter: @taniaganguli

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