LeBron James continues to take steps toward returning to the court, but pressure from fans, the media or the Lakers organization won’t force him to alter his timetable.
The 34-year-old superstar, who has not played since straining his groin Dec. 25, was re-evaluated and cleared to return to practice next week but will not accompany Los Angeles on its two-game trip to Oklahoma City and Houston, the team announced Wednesday.
James’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, told The Athletic on Wednesday the superstar will not return until he is fully healthy.
“We’re going to do what’s best for him,” Paul said. “…Day to day doesn’t mean tomorrow or the next day (he’ll be back). Day to day means that after each day of his workload, we’ll evaluate it, and when he feels his best he’ll play. However long it takes, it’ll take. We’re not on nobody else’s timeline.”
James participated in half-court shooting and passing drills during the Lakers’ shootaround Tuesday. Coach Luke Walton said he was “encouraged” by his participation in some parts of that workout.
“(James) does a lot of (running) when we’re not here,” Walton said. “I don’t know the (exact) amount of running he’s doing. I just know he seems to be in good spirits.”
James originally suffered the injury in the third quarter of the Lakers’ win over the Warriors on Christmas Day. He met with trainers on the court, appeared to tell them he “felt it pop” and then headed 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 11 games. Los Angeles (24-21) is 4-7 in his absence after Tuesday’s 107-100 win against the hapless Bulls snapped a two-game losing streak.
Los Angeles 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.
The Lakers face the Thunder on Thursday in OKC and then take on the Rockets on Saturday in Houston before returning home Monday to face the champion Warriors.