LeBron James never gets too concerned about his injuries, at least outwardly. The results of the MRI exam he received Wednesday morning reinforced his confidence.
James will be day to day because of a strained left groin after the MRI test revealed no surprises. James will not travel to Sacramento with the team for Thursday’s game against the Kings, ending the 14-time All-Star forward’s streak of consecutive games played at 156. The last time James sat out a game was at the end of the 2016-17 regular season, when the Cleveland Cavaliers rested him for two games before the playoffs.
“Dodged a bullet! Sheesh!” James said on Twitter. He added the hashtag: #backinnotime.
While James remains in Los Angeles, the Lakers will have center JaVale McGee with them in Sacramento. McGee has sat out five games while recovering from pneumonia. He was with the Lakers on their week-long trip to Houston, Charlotte, Washington and Brooklyn, but sat out their final two games. McGee returned to Los Angeles and was hospitalized until his condition improved.
The Lakers have not determined whether McGee will play.
Even without James for a quarter and a half Tuesday, the Lakers beat the NBA defending champions Golden State Warriors 127-101. The Lakers then returned to Los Angeles so players and coaches could spend the day with their families before traveling north.
James injured his groin during the third quarter.
“I was dribbling down the court and Draymond [Green] got his hand on the ball and I went to get the loose ball and just over-extended my groin I guess,” James said. “And then I felt it coming down the court, I actually over-extended it again back on defense.”
Groin injuries can linger if they aren’t properly treated, so James’ priority will be to recover fully before playing again. After taking on the Kings on Thursday, the Lakers will play home games against the Clippers on Friday, the Kings on Sunday, the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday and the New York Knicks on Jan. 4.
The Lakers will look to weather James’ absence by drawing confidence from how they played against the Warriors.
“It’s not like we’re panicking cause he’s gone,” forward Kyle Kuzma said. “We’re pros too. We’re great players, on our way to trying to be great players. It’s all about that next up mentality and having a will to win.”
Rajon Rondo helped vault the Lakers over the finish line Tuesday, scoring 13 of his 15 points after James left.
“My mindset changed as far as being more dominant with the ball and try to be more aggressive to make plays for my teammates,” said Rondo, who sprained his right ring finger and won’t be with the Lakers in Sacramento.
Playing his 16th season, James has sat out for an extended period of time only once.
“It’s pretty rare for me to have an injury period,” James said. “It happens.”
On Dec. 28, 2014, two days before he turned 30, James played against the Detroit Pistons, then sat out two games because of nagging injuries. The Cavaliers eventually announced that James would sit out two weeks because of knee and back strains.
Last season he played in all 82 regular-season games and 22 playoff games. This at a time when most of the members of his draft class, including Lakers coach Luke Walton, had long left behind their playing careers.
“I take a lot of pride in it,” James said of his durability. “So that is why it [upset me] not being able to go back into the game. It’s more than anything being available to my teammates, to my coaching staff, that is something I take more personal than anything. Hopefully, it is not a long thing and I can get back on the floor as soon as possible.”
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
On Air: TV: Spectrum SportsNet; Radio: 710, 1330
Update: The Kings will be playing the second game on back-to-back nights. They played the Clippers on Wednesday at Staples Center, having won their previous two games against New Orleans and Memphis.