After being sidelined for six weeks, Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James returned to game action against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night. James' return didn't result in a win for the Lakers, but just having him back out on the floor was a win in and of itself for L.A. The Lakers didn't really ease James back into action, as he played 32 minutes against Sacramento, which is just shy of his season average. After the game, James spoke to media members about how he felt after such a long layoff.
"For my first game in six weeks, I felt OK," James said, via ESPN. "As far as my wind, I felt pretty good. As far as my ankle, it was a little tight at times, obviously. ... But I came out unscathed and pretty good. So it's a good start."
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To say that James was eager to get back out on the court with his teammates would be an understatement. Chomping at the bit would probably be a better way to describe how he felt.
"It's been urgency for me to get back ever since I got injured. So that's just who I am," James said. "You guys could have seen the logging of the minutes and hours per day that I was doing as far as rehab and treatment, it was a lot more than I slept. So over the last six weeks, that's all I've been doing, is having an urgency to get back and play.
"It was horrible, honestly, for me. I was more stressful than I've ever been," James added of his time away from the game. "But I'm happy I'm playing now, so a little stress relief."
While it will likely take James, 36, a little while to get back to his old self following the ankle injury, he's not sure that he'll ever get back to full form at this stage in his career.
"I knew I wasn't going to get back to 100 percent. It's impossible," James said. "I don't think I will ever get back to 100 percent in my career."
Luckily for the Lakers, James at 95, or even 90 percent, of his abilities is still better than most players that have ever touched a basketball. Plus, he's one of the smartest players ever, so even if his athleticism begins to fade, he will still be able to lean on his off-the-charts basketball IQ in order to remain extremely effective.
The Lakers fell to fifth in the West in James' absence though, and now they face the tough task of regrouping with just nine regular season games remaining on their schedule. With six games separating them and the fourth place Nuggets, it sure looks like the Lakers will have to defend their title without having homecourt advantage throughout the postseason. Luckily, they have ample playoff experience, and that should help, but it doesn't guarantee anything, and James knows that as well as anyone.
"We have a lot of experience with the postseason and how to make a run and handle adversity," James said. "Will it result in wins? That's for us. The game is played in between the four lines and not on experience or on paper and things of that nature. We got to go out and do it, too."
At the end of the day, health is the most important thing for the Lakers. As long as they have James and Anthony Davis on their active roster, they'll have a chance to beat any team in the league. However, with both players fresh off of injury issues and several other legitimate contenders in each conference, repeating as NBA champions will be a very tough task for L.A.