Lakers' LeBron James comments on return from injury, calls 17-game absence 'the toughest stretch of my career'

It's safe to say that the Los Angeles Lakers weren't the same team without LeBron James in the lineup.

On Thursday, James returned to the court after missing 17 games with a groin injury he suffered back on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors. After the game, James said he felt good but admitted he's not quite back to full form just yet.

"I'm about 80 [percent] right now, but I was good enough to feel confident and push throughout the game," James said. "The first quarter was kind of a feel-out, I haven't been out there since December 25th. Second quarter, I kind of ramped it up a little bit more than for the rest of the game. It's going to take a little while to get my rhythm back. I didn't shoot the ball particularly well. I'm very efficient and I take that personal. I was able to help out in other ways and this was a big team win for us.

"I worked my ass off to get back to this point," LeBron continued. "It's the toughest stretch of my career."

James certainly had his moments throughout the Lakers' 123-120 overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The superstar nearly recorded a triple-double as he scored 24 points, recorded 14 rebounds, and dished out nine assists. 

As he alluded to, James didn't shoot the ball particularly well from the perimeter. The Lakers star connected on just one of his six attempts from beyond the arc and finished the night shooting 9 of 22 from the field.

The Lakers compiled a 6-11 record while James was out of the lineup. Obviously, it doesn't help that the injury bug has hit the team hard with Lonzo Ball expected to miss a month with a sprained ankle and Kyle Kuzma just returning from a hip injury against the Clippers. Also, Rajon Rondo rolled his ankle late against the Clippers, and may miss time depending on the severity.

When the Lakers are healthy, they're definitely capable of stellar performances. This win was a huge stepping stone as the team attempts to climb back into the playoff race.

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