NBA Rumor: LeBron James Injury

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What are the risks associated with having had a high ankle sprain versus a regular ankle sprain? Jeff Stotts: So the regular ankle sprain involves the ligaments on the side of the ankle. The high ankle involves different ligaments altogether. It involves the distal tib fib joint, which is the distal ends of our two lower leg bones and there’s a ligament that goes across the top, there’s a couple other ligaments that stabilize that area. And that really forms what we call the ankle mortis, which is kind of a roof that goes over the talus of the ankle. And so we’re talking about overall integrity and stability of the ankle itself. It’s why they take longer to recover from. It’s why their resulting time lost games is greater and it’s why you need to be patient with the injury. You want to make sure that the ligaments are as strong as possible. Stability in the ankle is good. We want to make sure everything around the joint is ready to go, and that can be difficult because everything in the ankle might feel OK, but your ankle stabilizer’s not as strong, you end up having a reoccurrence or new injury.

LeBron James 'weeks away' from returning

LeBron James (ankle) is believed to be weeks away from a return to the court, Dave McMenamin of ESPN reports. Head coach Frank Vogel noted that James has recently progressed to “light work,” but he still isn’t all that close to gaining full clearance. The Lakers will undoubtedly take the proper steps to ensure James is at full health prior to clearing him, and at this point in time, a specific return date has not yet been identified.

LeBron James to miss several weeks?

Lakers star LeBron James is initially expected to miss several weeks due to his high right ankle sprain, sources say. High ankle sprains tend to range in missed time but usually last multiple weeks. James is not an ordinary player, though, and has an uncanny pain tolerance. At 36 years old, James and the Lakers are sure to be cautious with his return and allow him to return based on his response to treatment — which could be sooner than later.

A high ankle sprain likely means a minimum of two weeks, but depending on the severity of the sprain it could be six weeks or more. The nature of the sprain — the fact it was an eversion sprain, opposite of a standard sprain when the ankle rolls to the outside of the foot — complicates things. Because James ankle buckled the other way, there is the possibility of a bone bruise developing on the tip of the fibula when it rammed into the ankle bone. That would be even tougher to come back from. The Lakers final regular-season game is in less than eight weeks, on May 16.

James’ initial attempt to remain on the court after the injury (he even made a 3-pointer on the next possession) recalled his strong track record of playing through more common ankle sprains, which involve a different group of ligaments. As Stotts noted on Twitter on Saturday, his database showed James missing just three games total with eight previous ankle sprains. In this case, there’s reason for the Lakers to be more cautions with James’ health — certainly as compared to Thompson’s desire to rush back during the NBA Finals. Where the Lakers finish in the Western Conference standings is less important than having their stars healthy for the postseason.

“A guy dove for a loose ball, took his leg out from up under him,” Montrezl Harrell said. “I really don’t feel like it was one of those loose-ball plays. He had to go through his leg to get the ball, man. He was turned sideways. The ball was behind him. I mean, you’re jumping at an angle, going across this way, I mean, I don’t know how you feel that’s a loose ball.” Dennis Schroder concurred. “That’s an unnecessary play to dive in the leg like that,” he said.

The Lakers have three tough games this week when their next-man-up mantra will be tested. They play Sunday at Phoenix and Tuesday at New Orleans before playing host to Philadelphia on Thursday. The Lakers are percentage points behind the Suns for second place in the Western Conference, both 2½ games behind league-leading Utah. Backup center Montrezl Harrell did his part Saturday, when he led the Lakers with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Veteran forward Markieff Morris contributed 12 points and six rebounds. “It’s next man up,” Morris echoed. “We been dealing with injuries and the COVID all year, so we got to figure out how to get wins and figure out how we’re going to play, players in different positions, be team players and be aggressive.”

The impact of injuries is a key reason it’s dangerous to start to draw MVP conclusions too early in the season. Staying on the court is a key part of value within an individual regular season. Historically, 10 games missed has been about the cutoff for MVP consideration. The last player to miss more than 10 games in an MVP season was Allen Iverson in 2000-01 (11). Before that, you have to go back to Bill Walton in 1977-78 (an unprecedented 34) for the previous example. (No MVP between Walton and Iverson missed more than seven games.)
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May 17, 2021 | 2:13 pm EDT Update