LeBron James injury update: Lakers star (groin) returns to contact practice

LeBron James is one step closer to returning to the court.

The Lakers star participated in full-contact defensive drills Saturday for the first time since going down with a groin injury on Christmas Day.

James did not participate in the team’s Saturday scrimmage, but coach Luke Walton had good things to say about how the four-time MVP looked.

“It was the first time he’s been out there in the part of practice that involved that type of movement,” Walton said, via the team website. “He looked good. He’s still really good at basketball, in case you guys were wondering.”

James originally suffered the injury in the third quarter of the Lakers’ win over the Warriors in December. He met with trainers on the court, appeared to tell them he “felt it pop” and then went to the locker room without assistance.

James underwent an MRI the following day and said on Twitter he “dodged a bullet.” But, he has missed the Lakers’ last 15 games. Los Angeles is 5-10 in his absence.

The Lakers (25-24) signed James to a four-year, $153.3 million contract in July.

He is averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 34.6 minutes per game this season.