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The Los Angeles Lakers have gotten off to a slow start this season, in large part because LeBron James has played just six games so far. He missed two games early on due to a sprained ankle and is currently sidelined with an abdominal strain that has kept him out since Nov. 2.

Fortunately for the Lakers, a return of the four-time champion could come later this week. As L.A. hits the road for a five-game road trip this week, there's "growing optimism" that James could return on Friday against the Boston Celtics, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski

That update comes just a day after head coach Frank Vogel said James has been "progressing great" in his on-court workouts, though he has yet to be a full participant in practice. Both of those will be pre-requisites for LeBron getting back on the court, and it seems like that could happen in enough time for him to suit up for the Boston game. 

While the 36-year-old LeBron is no longer at the peak of his powers, his return will obviously be a welcome sight for the Lakers. He's still putting up 24.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and seven assists per game, and controls the game like few others in the league. It's no surprise that their offense has been 8.4 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor than with him off.

Through 15 games, the Lakers are 4-2 when he plays, compared to 4-5 when he sits, and are currently in seventh place in the crowded Western Conference at 8-7. There's still plenty of season left to play, but the longer they have to play without LeBron the worse for the Lakers. As we saw last season when they ended up in the play-in tournament because of a lost tiebreaker, one game can make all the difference in terms of seeding and matchups for the playoffs.