As the Lakers begin an especially difficult portion of their schedule, they’ll start it without LeBron James.
James, who is recovering from a groin injury, will not travel with the team to Oklahoma City and Houston this week, according to his agent, Rich Paul. Paul said James has not experienced any setback, but is “right on schedule”’ with his rehab.
The Lakers play the Thunder on Thursday and the Rockets on Saturday.
James could return for the Lakers’ game against the Golden State Warriors on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The Lakers have already lost games to the Thunder and Rockets this season.
Houston has won 14 of its last 18 games behind James Harden, who has scored more than 40 points in seven of the Rockets’ last 10 games and at least 30 in each of their last 16 games. He is coming off a 57-point performance in a 112-94 win over Memphis.
Oklahoma City is led by Paul George, who has inserted himself into the conversation for the league’s MVP. He’s averaging 26.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists a game.
Upon returning home, the Lakers won’t have an easier time — they play the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
The last time James played was during the Christmas Day game against the Warriors. He strained his left groin during the third quarter. While a minor groin strain can typically take a few weeks to heal, the Lakers announced James as day-to-day after his initial MRI.
The Lakers cleared him for more activity last week and said they would provide an update today. James participated during half-court shooting and passing drills with the team on Tuesday morning. It was the first time he had done so during the portion of practice open to reporters.
Without him, the Lakers have struggled. They have lost seven of their 11 games without James, including to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have the worst record in the NBA. On Tuesday night, they narrowly beat the Chicago Bulls, who have the second worst record in the NBA and are on an eight-game losing streak.
The Lakers won’t have an official practice today before traveling to Oklahoma City.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli