The Los Angeles Lakers’ quest to make the playoffs after a six-year drought has been rocked by multiple setbacks since the last week of December. Aside from the groin injury that sidelined LeBron James for a total of 18 games, the team has also dealt with chemistry issues in the aftermath of the myriad Anthony Davis trade rumors that swirled ahead of the February 7 trade deadline. Not even James’ return from injury has been able to help the Lakers snap out of their funk, given their rout at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers and upset loss to the Atlanta Hawks heading into the All-Star break.
With the Lakers returning to action later this week — at 10th place in the Western Conference with a 28-29 record — the onus is now on James to pull the team together, and to help them earn a playoff spot as expected, NESN points out. However, the Athletic‘s Joe Vardon suggested on Monday that the Lakers aren’t even sure if James is completely healed from his injury. According to Vardon, the team is “a little concerned” that LeBron appears to have missed a step since his return.
“He’s just not moving at the same speed nor is he engaging at the point of attack,” Vardon wrote, as quoted by ClutchPoints.
“That fourth-quarter moment in a loss to the Hawks on Wednesday in which Trae Young switched onto LeBron, and instead of taking the much smaller Young off the dribble LeBron casually threw the ball to Brandon Ingram in the corner? There are several examples like this.”
Based on his post-groin injury averages of 23.2 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 11 assists over five games, LeBron James appears to be in good form at the present. But with Vardon observing that the four-time MVP isn’t quite as mobile or aggressive as he usually is, NESN speculated that James could also be pacing himself and easing himself back after more than a month away from the court. However, this isn’t the first claim in recent days to hint at how James doesn’t quite look like he’s back to 100 percent.
As reported on Saturday by the Inquisitr, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst commented on his Hoop Collective podcast last week that the “word on the street” is that James tipped the scales at around 280 pounds upon his return. This observation, however, was contested by NBA trainer Travelle Gaines, who told USA Today‘s HoopsHype that LeBron weighs closer to 260 pounds, or only about 10 pounds above his listed weight, and will “always be in top shape.”