LeBron James finally returned, but suddenly, the Lakers are no longer .500.
Instead, they lost their first game with James in uniform since the middle of February — or one game after the All-Star break to be exact. On Sunday, it was a 118-108 clunker vs. the visiting Bulls.
James came off the bench for just the second time in his career, scoring a team-high 19 points, after sitting out the past month with a right foot tendon injury. He wasn’t supposed to be back this soon. Most reports had him pegged to be back in the April 7-9 range.
“I felt confident in the workouts that I had this week,” James told reporters. “And the day after the workouts, when I woke up, stepped out down off the bed, I could possibly play (Sunday). And after my workout early before the game today, I knew I could play.”
James also had five rebounds and three assists, but committed five turnovers. Defensively, the entire team struggled to keep pace with the Bulls.
Interestingly, forward Rui Hachimura did not play at all despite being 100 percent.
Anyway, the loss dropped the Lakers (37-38) to ninth place in the Western Conference with just seven games to go. The next is again vs. the Bulls, only that one will be in Chicago to tip off a five-game road swing. So they have just two home games left — the final two of the season.
On the bright side, they are only slightly worse on the road (16-20) than they are at home (21-18). And now that James is back, theoretically, they should finally be at their best. But that sure was not the case on Sunday.
LeBron said two doctors recommended season-ending surgery, but then he went to see the “LeBron James of feet” and James determined he’d be able to return.
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) March 26, 2023