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LeBron James Available for Lakers vs. Kings After Missing 21 Games with Injury

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) holds the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James is returning from a high ankle sprain for Friday night's home game against the Sacramento Kings, per Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic.

“It’s time for him to return to the lineup...so we’re excited to have him back," coach Frank Vogel told reporters.

Vogel said James will not have a minutes restriction. 

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski previously reported that James would test his right ankle during pregame warm-ups at Staples Center before deciding whether to play.

The four-time MVP's return is a welcome sight for the Lakers, who've slid to fifth in the Western Conference with a 36-26 record while waiting on the injury recoveries of James and Anthony Davis, who came back from a calf injury last week.

In a normal year, L.A. may have waited a little longer to bring James back into the lineup, but it doesn't want to risk falling into the play-in tournament before the playoffs. The No. 7 through 10 seeds will fight to fill the final two berths in the West bracket.

The Lakers currently own a two-game advantage over the seventh-seeded Portland Trail Blazers (34-28) with 10 games remaining for both teams. The sides have a head-to-head meeting May 7 in Portland. The Dallas Mavericks (35-27) are also involved in what's basically a three-team race for two guaranteed spots.

"We control our own destiny," Davis told reporters after Wednesday's loss to the Washington Wizards. "So we have to start playing with a sense of desperation, even though we are in the playoffs as of right now. But we're not that far off from being in play-in games. So we've got to play with a sense of desperation as well."

If Los Angeles ultimately clinches a top-six position, it wouldn't be a surprise to see both James and Davis get some games off to rest at the tail end of the regular season, which for L.A. ends May 16.

James, who last played March 20, was the MVP front-runner at the time of the ankle injury. The 36-year-old Ohio native has averaged 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists while shooting 51.3 percent from the field in 41 appearances this season.

The Lakers brass has been pretty tight-lipped throughout his recovery, so it's unclear what type of minutes restriction, if any, he could face as he rejoins the lineup.