LOS ANGELES — LeBron James will miss at least the next two games for the Los Angeles Lakers as he continues to rehabilitate a strained left groin, his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, told ESPN on Tuesday.
James has missed the Lakers last 11 games since suffering the injury on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors and L.A. has gone 4-7 in his absence, counting Tuesday’s 107-100 win against the hapless Chicago Bulls.
James will have his groin injury re-evaluated in Los Angeles on Wednesday — the three-week mark since the injury occurred — and will not accompany the team on its two-game road trip through Oklahoma City and Houston, Paul told ESPN.
The news comes at a treacherous time in the Lakers’ schedule as they’ll play the Thunder, the No. 3 team in the Western Conference, followed by the No. 4 Rockets and finally the No. 1 Golden State Warriors in the span of five days.
James has not been ruled out of the matchup with Golden State on Martin Luther King Day on Monday. James has been progressing in his rehab, participating in half-court shooting and passing drills at the Lakers practice facility this week.
Lakers coach Luke Walton said he was “encouraged” by what he’s seen out of James back on the court, but was quick to add that James, “didn’t do the up-and-down stuff,” with the rest of the team.
L.A. is 24-21, in a virtual tie with the Utah Jazz for the No. 8 spot in the West.
“It’s a tough three-game stretch,” said Kyle Kuzma. “Super tough. Top five teams in the league if you were to look at it from a year ago and even how they’re playing right now. So, for us, we got our hands full and it’s just more adversity we got to face, especially road games and coming home and playing on Martin Luther King Day.”
The Lakers allowed an 18-point fourth quarter lead to be cut all the way down to five before holding on to beat the Bulls. It was a reminder of the disappointing results they were unable to avoid against the New York Knicks — a team that lost eight in a row coming into the L.A. game and four in a row since — and the Cleveland Cavaliers — a team that had lost 12 straight coming into their win over the Lakers — and the uphill battle they face in the standings now.
“I mean, it kind of kicks you in your butt when you look at the games you’ve lost that you should have won,” Kuzma said. “Obviously. Especially playing in the West, everything is so close. So we’re outside of the playoffs right now but we could easily be fourth right now. So, you definitely look at it like that but you got to just take it with a grain of salt and just bring it. Bring it every single night. Especially in the West.”
The 13 games missed for James with Oklahoma City and Houston off the table will match the most he’s ever missed in a season when he missed the same total in 2014-15. It is already the most games he’s ever missed consecutively in a season, eclipsing the eight straight he sat out in ’14-15 when he was dealing with back and knee pain.