Los Angeles Times

James’ injury may hobble Lakers’ push for playoffs

Foot soreness will cause the star to miss Tuesday’s game and perhaps several more.

- By Dan Woike

The Lakers announced that LeBron James will not play because of “right foot soreness” when the team faces the Grizzlies on Tuesday night in Memphis. However, there is concern that the star forward will miss multiple weeks with the injury.

Though the details are scarce, people with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly confirmed that the severity of James’ foot injury might sideline him for several games.

James injured his foot during the third quarter Sunday in the Lakers’ 111-108 comeback road win over the Dallas Mavericks, his sneaker jamming into the court, sending him falling awkwardly to the ground. He appeared to tell teammates and Lakers staff that he “heard a pop.”

James originally thought he stepped on Mavericks center Dwight Powell’s foot, but later he learned that it was a non-contact injury.

He was able to continue playing and finished the game, scoring 26 points and hitting big shots down the stretch.

James walked with a significan­t limp when leaving the arena.

“It’s been better. That’s for sure,” he said afterward. “But I definitely wasn’t going to go to the locker room and not finish the game out tonight. Just understood the importance of the game and


then with the momentum that we had, I felt like we still could win after being down. We’ll monitor it the next couple days, see how it feels and go from there.”

The Lakers (29-32) are in 12th place in the Western Conference but only 31⁄2 games behind the fourthplac­e Phoenix Suns.

The team has won three consecutiv­e games and has been building significan­t momentum, though Monday’s concerns about James’ foot are a significan­t blow to a team that has dealt with injury problems all season.

After he was ruled out of the game at Memphis, James posted a picture of his foot on Instagram with the words “F— sucks !!!! ”

James is averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists and he broke the NBA’s all-time scoring record Feb. 7. He has played three games since then — all Lakers wins — while nursing a sore left foot.

There are six weeks left in the regular season, with the Lakers needing to make up ground to ensure they don’t miss the postseason for a second straight season.

Point guard D’Angelo Russell is doubtful to play Tuesday after he missed Sunday’s game at Dallas because of an ankle injury. Forward Anthony Davis (right foot) is listed as probable.

With James out, the Lakers could look to newly acquired Rui Hachimura for an expanded role, though his production has been uneven since the team acquired the young forward from Washington.

James said he also has been dealing with an illness since the All-Star break. Before the break, he missed three games because of soreness in his left foot and ankle.

Tuesday’s game will be the 15th James has missed this season. The Lakers are 5-9 without him.

Despite the injury, James played 36 minutes against the Mavericks and helped lead the Lakers back from 27 points down — the largest comeback in the NBA this season.

“Yeah, always,” Lakers guard Austin Reaves said when asked whether he was concerned when he saw James get hurt.

“With him hurt, rolled his ankle, whatever, you never want to see that. Any of the guys on the team, you never want to see anybody get hurt. So we’re happy he could finish the game, and to have him and AD carry us down the stretch was really important.”

After Tuesday’s game at Memphis, the Lakers play at Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

At the All-Star break, James said he hoped to be available for the team throughout its final push for the playoffs.

“I hope I can figure out a way to just make sure that I’m available on the floor every single night for these 23 games to give us a chance,” he said, “give our group a chance to be able to compete every night and give ourselves a chance to win every night so we can give ourselves a chance to get into the postseason.”

The Lakers likely will have to spend significan­t time pushing without their best player, a massive challenge for a team that was just starting to find its footing after a major overhaul.

AD comes through

With James hobbled and the Lakers’ three-point attack invisible against Dallas on Sunday, Davis went to work, scoring the game’s biggest baskets, including a turnaround jumper over Luka Doncic.

“Tonight our shooters, or us as a team, were not shooting the ball great,” Davis said. “We were running some plays where I was able to catch the ball and make decisions. So just coming out and being aggressive.”

He led the Lakers with 30 points to go with 15 rebounds and three blocks.

“It’s great to see,” coach Darvin Ham said. “I know he’s having fun, again, playing pain-free. And that’s when you see it — when he’s really emotionall­y, spirituall­y involved in the game, not just physically. And we tried to ride him a little bit and feed him, calling his number continuous­ly, and he delivered.”

 ?? LM Otero Associated Press ?? THE LAKERS’ LeBron James reaches for the ball while he battles Dallas’ Luka Doncic on Sunday. James suffered a right foot injury in the comeback win.
LM Otero Associated Press THE LAKERS’ LeBron James reaches for the ball while he battles Dallas’ Luka Doncic on Sunday. James suffered a right foot injury in the comeback win.

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