LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers had been absolutely dominant to open the season, thanks in large part to their excellent health. James and Anthony Davis combined to miss only one of the team’s first 27 games, and uncoincidentally, the Lakers started 24-3. But after Davis missed Tuesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, the Lakers started to crack. They lost that game, and then another to the Milwaukee Bucks. Finally, on Sunday, they suffered their worst loss of the season to the Denver Nuggets, 128-104, as James sat out with a thoracic muscle strain and a nagging groin issue. In that loss, Davis suffered a potentially scary injury as he appeared to hyperextend his knee while stepping on a wet spot in the fourth quarter with the Lakers down 22 points.
After the game, Davis told reporters that he would wait to see how his knee feels before determining if he’ll need to miss any time to recover from it. James’ injury, on the other hand, was not expected to linger as he is expected to play on Christmas in the Lakers’ showdown with their Staples Center co-tenants, the Clippers, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. However, as of Monday afternoon, the Lakers announced that both James and Davis are questionable to play in the holiday showdown in what is likely to be a Western Conference finals preview.
James missing a game wouldn’t normally be huge news, but last season he was limited to just 55 games because of a groin injury. He had never played in fewer than 69 games before that, so any injury is going to raise some eyebrows as James traverses his 17th NBA season, especially given the wear and tear on his body after nearly two decades in the league.
In the two games the Lakers played without Davis, they lost to Indiana and won the other against the lowly Warriors. The biggest concern is how massive the gap in production is between the two superstars and the next Laker. Davis and James have combined for 53.5 points per game this season, while the next-highest Laker is Kyle Kuzma at 11.1 per game.
The Lakers will obviously be cautious with James and Davis’ return to action, and understandably so. They want both of them as healthy as possible come playoff time, even if it costs them a couple of wins during the regular season. With that said, it would definitely put a damper on the matchup against the Clippers if one, or neither of the stars, is unable to play on Christmas Day.