After missing the longest stretch of games in his career due to a high ankle sprain, LeBron James made his anticipated return against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
Although the Lakers were not able to come up with a win, they can take solace in the fact that James looked completely healthy when out on the floor. The 36-year-old played 32 minutes and recorded 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Any time a player misses significant time, there is inevitably going to be rust that they need to knock off as well as conditioning issues. James reflected on his performance, noting he felt good but that his ankle did give him mild issues as the game went on.
“Yeah, I mean, I haven’t played in a game in six weeks, no contact, no five-on-five, I’ve been doing a bunch of individual workouts and a lot of running, trying to keep my heart rate and conditioning going. For my first game in six weeks, I felt Ok. As far as my wind, I felt pretty good. As far as my ankle, my ankle was a little bit tight at times. Obviously it’s just doing different movements, different things that I haven’t done obviously in a game situation in six weeks. So I think as the games go on that will continue to improve. But I came out unscathed and pretty good so it’s a good start.”
As for the loss itself, James admitted that Los Angeles needed to execute better down the stretch to secure the victory.
“Obviously it’s on both sides of the floor. I think obviously our turnovers hindered us a lot in the fourth quarter. But also, we gave up some really good looks for them in the fourth quarter and we had a 10-point lead at one point, we let that dwindle down so we got to do a better job of that.”
The loss was embarrassing given that the Lakers held a double-digit lead heading into the fourth, but the bright side is that James appears ready to play the rest of the way. The remaining nine games are going to be crucial for James and the rest of the team as they try to make up for lost time and build enough chemistry heading into the playoffs.
It was clear that everyone who played was trying to figure out how to play with one another, and that will likely persist until the end of the regular season. It will be interesting to see how head coach Frank Vogel navigates this, but for the time being it is good to know James is back.
Vogel offers assessment of James’ return
Vogel was impressed with how James looked after missing 20 games but did admit some of the miscues could be attributed to the lack of familiarity with teammates.
“I thought he looked great [laughs],” Vogel said. “I was very encouraged by how he looked. I actually thought that he would have more of a growth curve in terms of getting his legs back under him. Conditioning I thought looked really good.
“Missed some shots, had a couple turnovers, but he’s not just coming back after being out for two months, he’s paying with new teammates, you know what I mean. But I thought overall he looked really good.”
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