The Lakers are looking to bounce back from a heavy loss to the Utah Jazz last time out, a result which saw them slip to 3-6 since LeBron got hurt.
Luke Walton’s team occupy the last playoff spot in the Western Conference but their defeat to the Jazz means Utah are just 0.5 games behind in the standings, with the Sacramento Kings also only 1.0 behind.
That has upped the pressure on the Lakers’ young core, producing mixed results. Kyle Kuzma dropped 41 points on the Detroit Pistons but managed just 11 at Utah, despite playing seven minutes longer.
The Lakers are therefore desperate for LeBron to return from his groin strain as soon as possible to get them back to winning form – but he will not be back on court tonight.
They are presented with an ideal opportunity to bounce back from the defeat to the Jazz with the visit of the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers to Staples Center tonight (7.30pm PST/2.30am UK time).
LeBron’s former team have the worst record in the whole of the NBA (8-35) and have won just three of 21 games on the road, while find themselves on a 12-game losing streak in the absence of star Kevin Love.
But worryingly for the Lakers, NBA reporter Brandon Robinson believes four-time MVP LeBron could sit out for as long as another seven weeks.
The host of the Scoop B Radio Podcast said on Twitter: “Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James injury is more complex than what has been initially reported, I’m told.
“Per Lakers source: LeBron could rushed back and return at the end of January.
“But he could very well be out until the end of February, or even longer.”
LeBron will miss the visit of Cleveland and a clash with the struggling Chicago Bulls next week (Tuesday 7.30pm PST/Wednesday 3.30am UK) before being re-evaluated by the Lakers’ medical staff before a trip to Oklahoma City.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported this week: “While James, 34, could be in line to return in time for the Lakers’ game against the Thunder, he will take a cautious approach and is prepared to be out multiple weeks if that’s what it takes to return at 100 per-cent, a source familiar with James’ thinking told ESPN.”
McMenamin also reported that, as of yet, LeBron has done very little basketball activity other than standstill shooting.
Head coach Walton, meanwhile, has warned his Lakers team that they should not underestimate the Cavs after they were beaten by the 10-33 New York Knicks earlier this month.
He said: “We’ve got to learn from our past, learn from the mistakes we made. Cleveland is very capable, like every team in the NBA.
“I know they’ve lost a lot in a row, but they jumped out on New Orleans early and were knocking down threes. Even the Houston game, they started that one alright. They’re very capable of playing.
“If we have that same mentality that we did against the Knicks, there’s no reason they can’t beat us. I expect us to learn from that, but yeah, we’ll reference [the effort and slow start against the Knicks].”