Lakers coach Luke Walton hasn’t wanted to put a timeline on LeBron James’ return from a groin injury, but he’s hopeful that James will be back on the court before the All-Star break.
“I’m assuming he’s back,” Walton said.
Good. The NBA’s counting on him.
Thursday, the league announced James would be one of two captains of the Feb. 17 All-Star Game after he led all players with more than 4.6 million fan votes. Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will captain the other team.
The game, James’ 15th All-Star appearance, will be played in Charlotte, N.C.
This is the second year teams will be chosen in a draft by the two captains. The draft, scheduled for Feb. 7, will be televised for the first time.
Joining James from the Western Conference will be Golden State guard Stephen Curry and forward Kevin Durant, Houston guard James Harden and Oklahoma City forward Paul George. In the East, Boston guard Kyrie Irving, Charlotte guard Kemba Walker, Toronto forward Kawhi Leonard and Philadelphia center Joel Embiid will join Antetokounmpo.
Those eight players were chosen based on fan, media and player voting, with fan vote breaking any ties — which is why George is starting over New Orleans’ Anthony Davis.
James and Antetokounmpo can pick players for their teams regardless of conference.
Seven reserves from the East and seven reserves from the West will be announced next Thursday, with an extra spot now available in the Eastern Conference after the Indiana Pacers announced that guard Victor Oladipo will miss the rest of the season with a ruptured quad tendon in his knee.
The injury, which he suffered Wednesday, will require surgery and rob Oladipo of a second straight All-Star appearance.
The injury might keep the Pacers without an All-Star representative despite having the fourth-best record in the NBA.
Clippers forwards Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari are possibilities to be named as reserved from the Western Conference.
For James, it’s the third-straight year he’s led the NBA in fan voting.