LeBron James is reportedly expected to return to the lineup for the Los Angeles Lakers' Christmas matchup with the Clippers after missing one game with a thoracic muscle strain and a lingering groin injury.
Anthony Davis is also expected to play despite a knee injury after the Lakers "conducted impromptu practice [Tuesday] morning," according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin.
McMenamin first reported on Monday that James' absence was expected to be limited to Sunday's loss to the Denver Nuggets. He was initially hurt in last week's loss to the Indiana Pacers and played through pain in Thursday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Lakers have dropped a season-high three straight games heading into the showdown with their Staples Center co-tenants.
"We want all our players to make sure that they're healthy and being intelligent with this time of year, understanding it's a marathon," Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters. "It's an 82-game season. And we'll see how it progresses."
The Lakers came out flat without James, playing lackadaisical on both ends in a 128-104 loss to Denver. Davis and Kyle Kuzma were the only Lakers in double figures, while the Nuggets whipped the ball around and assisted on 31 of their 45 field goals.
"We never expected to lose three in a row," Davis said. "We didn't expect to lose two in a row. But ... it's not going to get any easier. We got a tough one coming up in two days, so we got to get back to the gym and work on our defense and make sure we'll be ready to go on Christmas Day."
James is averaging 25.8 points, 10.6 assists and 7.5 rebounds on 49.6 percent shooting this season. He's coming off an injury-plagued 2018-19 that saw him play a career-low 55 games. A week away from his 35th birthday, there is a natural concern any time James suffers an injury.
For as much as we'd like to live in a state of suspended disbelief, Father Time is unbeaten, and these injuries are more likely to crop up and linger with every passing month.
The Lakers can take solace in the fact that two of these three losses have come with either James or Davis out of the lineup. However, it's also proof of the degree to which they're reliant on their two stars to make this roster competitive.