An Underage Sports Journal For Students of the Game

Noah Weitzel

Noah Weitzel

Despite a loss, LeBron James and Lakers take a major step forward vs. Kings

After the longest injury spell in LeBron James’ career — sidelined for 20 games, because of a high ankle sprain, he stepped back onto the court.

James was set to play vs. the Sacramento Kings in his return. Prior to the game, a league source confirmed James would perform for 25+ minutes. Frank Vogel stated James would not play on minute restrictions owing to the character of his injury. 

James missed over a month of basketball because of a high right ankle sprain that occurred vs. the Atlanta Hawks, early in the first half of Mar. 20th. Atlanta’s Solomon Hill hit James when trying to secure a near-loose ball by L.A. James then went tumbling down — grasping his right ankle. 

Post-warm-ups L.A. was announced the star forward would return to play for L.A. “For my first game in six weeks, I felt okay,” James noted. He would start the game for Los Angeles, alongside his co-star, who returned just 4 games before him. “It’s been urgency for me to get back ever since I got injured. So that’s just who I am,” James commented. “You guys could have seen the logging of the minutes and hours per day that I was doing as far as rehab and treatment, it was a lot more than I slept. So over the last six weeks, that’s all I’ve been doing, is having an urgency to get back and play.”

LeBron started the game with a find to Andre Drummond in the post. As the first quarter unfolded, Sacramento exhibited their chemistry, producing many open shots from the mid-range and lay-ups — taking a substantial lead in the 1st. LeBron attacked the basket and assisted his teammates, which contributed to a close game. The Lakers’ ball movement was exponential — proceeding to the end of the first half. One key factor for L.A.’s comeback was James’ chemistry with veteran newcomer Andre Drummond. The big man/playmaker duo was on full display — with LeBron locating Drummond with easy baskets in the post.

With just a glimpse of L.A. at near maximum strength, their chemistry was impeccable, and perhaps stronger than their new rivals in the East. At the start of the third, Los Angeles held the game as a close one, with decent plays on both ends of the court. The team played at a fast pace, getting to the basket a lot quicker than in the previous quarters. 

LeBron showcased his flashiness going into the 4th, working from the mid-range and assisting L.A.’s ball movement. The team alone had one timeout remaining with eight minutes left in the second half, as Sacramento crawled back to tie and hold the game a close one. Sacramento’s defensive pressure expressed itself. They distinctly were drained of LeBron’s slower performance, simultaneously gathering a much-needed lead. Although L.A. slowed down on the defensive end, they persisted at a sturdy pace on the other end of the court. As the game got closer to a conclusion, LeBron took the game into his own hands, putting up contested shots from behind the arc and attacking the basket at a powerful stride.

With less than a minute to play, Anthony Davis blocked Delon Wright, preventing a crucial Kings floater. And just like that, Los Angeles was set to inbound the ball. Down by two with five seconds remaining, LeBron inbounded the ball to Kyle Kuzma, once he received it right back, James attempted a game-winner three from the wing, but L.A. didn’t get the outcome they desired, 108-106 with a victory by Sacramento. “It was horrible, honestly, for me. I was more stressful than I’ve ever been,” James said post-game. “But I’m happy I’m playing now, so a little stress relief.”

LeBron spoke on where the Lakers currently stand and how his ankle was feeling during game-time:

“It’s only nine games left. It’s just been … it’s been a hell of a season, obviously. … But we look forward to the challenge,” James said. “It is what it is. This is the season, and we’ve got to make the most out of it.” “As far as my ankle, it was a little tight at times, obviously. … But I came out unscathed and pretty good. So it’s a good start.”

With arguably the worst injury in his career, James doesn’t believe he will get back to 100%: I knew I wasn’t going to get back to 100%. It’s impossible,” he said. “I don’t think I will ever get back to 100% in my career.”