Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
Although LeBron James still isn’t able to play in games, the Los Angeles Lakers star competed in full-contact defensive drills Saturday for the first time since suffering a groin injury on Christmas Day.
James will still miss Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, which will be his 16th straight missed game.
Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers
LeBron James returned to full contact defensive drills for the first time since his injury, but won’t play Sunday against the Suns. https://t.co/e8y9z8kbI8
The Lakers have struggled without their superstar, going 5-10 over the past month to fall out of the playoff places. They will hope a matchup with the worst team in the Western Conference will help turn things around, even without James.
Meanwhile, the latest practice is encouraging for James despite his slow recovery.
It’s been 11 days since the four-time MVP first took part in shooting and passing in half-court situations, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, although he continues to be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s going to be, again, how he’s feeling tomorrow morning and take it from there and see how he’s doing the next day after that and the next day,” head coach Luke Walton said Thursday, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
“When they feel ready to play, then they’ll play,” Walton said of James and Rajon Rondo, who had finger surgery in late December.
James had never missed more than 13 games in a single year coming into 2018-19, but this issue seems to be lingering more than many could have anticipated.
Los Angeles will hope he can return for Tuesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.