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.
“He is a beast. Last year was, to play 82 [regular-season games], to play in I think two seven-game[playoff] series where he played 48 minutes in the seventh game. I mean it’s a testament to his work ethic, to his commitment to the game,” Fizdale said. “But even a guy like that needsa few days off sometimes.I’m not moaning and groaning.”
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.