Report: Lakers' LeBron James' Injury Status vs. Nuggets Not Load Management

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2019

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James dribbles during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 111-104. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

An injury, not load management, has led to Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James being listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Denver Nuggets.

Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel announced Saturday that James is dealing with a thoracic muscle strain, something ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported is being considered a "significant issue."

Vogel told reporters that James suffered the injury in Tuesday's game against the Indiana Pacers and he played through the issue Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks:

James recorded a triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) against Milwaukee, but it wasn't enough as the Lakers fell to the Bucks 111-104.

When asked if he was worried about the injury lingering long term, Vogel replied: "We'll see."

Prior to arriving in Los Angeles in the summer of 2018, James had done a remarkable job of being able to make himself available for his team. He never missed more than 13 games in a single season during his first 15 years in the league, averaging 92 games (postseason included) per game from 2003 to 2018.

That average factors in the 2011-12 strike-shortened season, which featured only 66 regular-season games as opposed to the normal 82.

In his first year in L.A., though, James was limited to just 55 games in 2018-19 as he suffered a groin injury on Christmas Day. He subsequently missed 17 games as a result and was later shut down in March as the Lakers fell out of contention.

Load management has become a topic of conversation in Los Angeles, but even in his 17th year, the 34-year-old James has made it clear he intends to play when healthy:

He appeared in all 82 regular-season games as well as 22 postseason games in his final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017-18.

James has played a major role in the Lakers' early success this season. The four-time NBA MVP is averaging 25.8 points, 10.6 assists and 7.5 rebounds, helping his team to a Western Conference-best 24-5 record.

If the Lakers are going to snap a six-year playoff drought and contend for their first championship since 2010, having a healthy James will be key.

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