LeBron James walked through the tunnel at Staples Center to a huge ovation Friday night. He was back in the building. The fans were happy to see him.
And, again, he wasn’t in uniform.
James’ day-to-day status got a little more clarity earlier in the day, with the Lakers announcing that he’dmiss at least the next week while he recovers from a strained groin. He will not travel with the team for its next two games, Sunday in Minnesota and Monday in Dallas.
He will be reevaluated next Friday, meaning he’ll miss Wednesday’s game against Detroit and almost certainly next Friday’s game in Utah.
“We got to get him healthy,” coach Luke Walton said at shootaround. “We talk all year. We need everyone on our team. You don’t want anyone to ever get hurt, but that’s how the NBA season plays out. We’re down in bodies, and it’s going to be a challenge, but our guys should be excited for that. We got to find a way to keep playing at a high level and try to finish some of these games out.”
James hasn’t played since injuring his groin in the second half of the Lakers’ win at Golden State on Christmas night. Following Friday’s 119-112 loss to the New York Knicks, the Lakers have lost four of the five games James had missed.
Knicks coach David Fizdale, who was an assistant coach in Miami when James played for the Heat, joked that he was just fine with him missing the game.
Injured Kuzma out, but improving
Kyle Kuzma, who hurt his back in Wednesday’s loss to Oklahoma City, didn’t play Friday.
Walton said that even though Kuzma is improving, the team didn’t want him to come to the arena Friday, instead telling him to stay home to continue treatment.
“The back is tough,” Walton said, speaking from experience. “You can’t really play through back pain. You get locked up, and you can’t move.”
Kuzma could travel with the team Saturday to Minneapolis.
“We will evaluate that decision first thing in the morning,” Walton said.
Kuzma is the Lakers’ second-leading scorer, averaging 18.3 points in his second season.
Michael Beasley returned to the Lakers for the first time since the death of his mother, Fatima Smith, last month. Beasley was away from the team for weeks while she battled cancer.
Beasley played in both halves Friday against a Knicks team he played for last season and finished with six points and four rebounds in 12 minutes.
“He was just starting to play in the rotation before he had left for his family things he had to deal with and he was good in those games,” Walton said. “So I would expect as he gets his feet under him again, he helps us win games in the second half.”