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, participated in half-court shooting and passing drills during the Lakers’ shootaround Tuesday.
He is set to be re-evaluated Wednesday but will not accompany the team on its two-game trip to Oklahoma City and Houston, his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, told ESPN.
Paul told The Athletic on Wednesday: “However long it takes, it takes. We’re not on nobody else’s timeline”
Still, Lakers coach Luke Walton said he thinks the team will hear positive news after James is re-examined.
“I’m optimistic about life,” Walton said, via ESPN. “So yes, that would be covered in that. … I think we’ll get good news back.”
Walton said he was “encouraged” by James’ participation in some parts of Tuesday’s 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. He’s got another test tomorrow to get some more information on it.”
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 to face the champion Warriors on Monday.