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Lakers' LeBron James 'More Stressed' Than Ever; Full Recovery Is 'Impossible'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2021

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James dribble the ball during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings on Friday, April 30, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said Friday his time out of the lineup to recover from a high ankle sprain was "horrible" and made him "more stressed" than he's ever been.

James, who played for the first time since March 20 in Friday's 110-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings, said he worked tirelessly to get back on the floor.

"It's been urgency for me to get back ever since I got injured. So, that's just who I am," James told reporters. "You guys could have seen the logging of the minutes and hours per day that I was doing as far as rehab and treatment; it was a lot more than I slept. So, over the last six weeks, that's all I've been doing, is having an urgency to get back and play."

He added: "I knew I wasn't going to get back to 100 percent. It's impossible. I don't think I will ever get back to 100 percent in my career."

James played 32 minutes and tallied 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block, but it wasn't enough to help the Lakers out of their slump. They've lost five of their past six contests and haven't won two in a row since March 28.

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It's becoming a tenuous situation for L.A. (36-27), which is fifth in the Western Conference and just one game ahead of the seventh-seeded Portland Trail Blazers (35-28). The Dallas Mavericks (35-27) are wedged between the two squads as part of the crowded race.

The top six teams are guaranteed a berth in the playoffs, while the Nos. 7 through 10 seeds will take part in a play-in tournament to determine the final two postseason teams in each conference.

"It's only nine games left," James said. "It's just been ... it's been a hell of a season, obviously. ... But we look forward to the challenge. It is what it is. This is the season, and we've got to make the most out of it."

The Lakers will do everything in their power to avoid the play-in tournament. They don't want their title defense to hinge on a couple of high-pressure games in which anything can happen.

Getting back James and Anthony Davis, who returned April 22 after nearly 10 weeks on the sideline with a calf injury, should help their cause. But how quickly LeBron can get back to the MVP-level form he was showcasing before his injury will be important.

The schedule doesn't do Los Angeles any favors in the short term. It hosts the Toronto Raptors on Sunday and the Denver Nuggets on Monday before road games against the rival Los Angeles Clippers and the Blazers, a crucial matchup that will be followed by a tilt against the West-leading Phoenix Suns.

That will set the stage for a battle that could come down to the regular season's final days.

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