Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James continues to slowly and steadily make his way back from a groin strain injury that has already kept him out of action for a little over one month. According to ESPN, James participated in contact drills for the first time Saturday, but he has already been ruled out for tonight's game against the Phoenix Suns at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"He was a full participant in that, so it was good to see," Lakers head coach Luke Walton said of James' participation in defensive contact drills. "He looked good. He's still really good at basketball, in case you guys were wondering."
James's agent Rich Paul initially indicated that the timetable for his recovery would be three to six weeks. However, he added that the four-time league MVP would be able to play through the injury if it were the playoffs. With LeBron set to miss his 16th game, he will extend the longest period he has missed in a season, surpassing his previous mark of 13.
In LeBron's absence, the Lakers have struggled mightily, putting up a 5-10 record, and slipping to ninth in the Western Conference. Injuries to Rajon Rondo (hand surgery) and Lonzo Ball (ankle sprain) have also contributed to the team's tough 15-game stretch, but as we saw throughout the Cleveland Cavaliers' remarkable playoff run last season, James is capable of compensating for practically any type of loss to a roster.
Despite the Lakers currently being on the outside looking in for a playoff spot, James is confident that, when playing at 100 percent, he can will his team back into postseason play. In his 16th season in the NBA, LeBron understands better than anyone in the league that the regular season is a marathon, not a race.