The Los Angeles Lakers will finally be welcoming All-Star forward LeBron James back to the lineup for Friday night's matchup against the Sacramento Kings. After being upgraded to questionable on the injury report Friday, the Lakers revealed that James would play with no hard minutes restriction. LeBron initially suffered what the team diagnosed as a high-ankle sprain on March 20 against the Atlanta Hawks.
LeBron's presence should do wonders for a Lakers team that has sorely missed his production during this extended absence. James has missed Los Angeles' last 20 games and his team is 8-12 with him sidelined. Unfortunately for L.A., it isn't just the team's overall record that has taken a hit.
James' absence has had an impact on the team as a whole, as it is clear that the Lakers miss having their leader on the floor. In the time since LeBron injured his ankle, the Lakers are averaging seven fewer points per game (111.9 pre-injury to 104.9 post-injury), their shooting percentage as a team has dipped from 48.4 percent to 45 percent, they are pulling down nearly four fewer rebounds per game (45.5 pre-injury to 41.9 post-injury) and, perhaps most importantly, they are not taking care of the ball as well as they should as Los Angeles has averaged more turnovers and fewer assists per game over their last 20 games.
With only 10 games remaining on their regular-season schedule, the Lakers will need LeBron to hit the ground running so that he can jell with his new teammates, Andre Drummond specifically, and help Los Angeles ensure they win enough games down the stretch to avoid the play-in tournament.