LeBron James' stint on the sideline continued on Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New York Knicks 101-99 in overtime. James will give his sore ankle another day to rest as the Lakers star took to Twitter Wednesday afternoon to confirm that while he is 'getting close' to being healthy enough to play, he will not be in the lineup against the Houston Rockets when the two meet at Staples Center on Wednesday night. He is scheduled to return to action Saturday against the Indiana Pacers, per Yahoo's Chris Haynes.
James was a full participant in practice on Monday and reportedly felt no pain in his ankle over the past few days, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. James returned to the court on April 30 following a 20-game absence due to an ankle injury, but after playing in two games -- the second of which he exited early -- he went back on the injury list as he was dealing with soreness in the same ankle that caused him to miss significant time.
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The Lakers have been extra cautious with James' injury, as they'll want him at full strength when the playoffs start next week. However, in LeBron's absence, the Lakers have encountered some issues, despite their back-to-back wins over the Suns and Knicks, as Los Angeles remains in the play-in tournament portion of the West standings and now sits in seventh place with a game separating them and the sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks. As the seventh seed in the West, the Lakers would have to go through the play-in tournament to secure a playoff seed before even reaching the postseason.
Playing extra games before the playoffs isn't ideal for a team that's already dealing with injured players, and James has already expressed his distaste for the tournament, stating that whoever came up with the idea should be fired," James said of the play-in tournament. "You've got to earn your spot to be in the postseason. No consolation for finishing last. That's corny." James may not like the idea, but having to qualify via the play-in tournament is a real possibility for the Lakers now.
In addition to playing the Knicks and Rockets this week on a back-to-back, the Lakers will finish out the season on the road against the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans, two teams who have been struggling as of late. There's still a chance the Lakers can improve their playoff positioning, and with James hopefully back in the lineup sometime before the end of the regular season, you can't count this team out from making a jump. But, the Lakers will need other contenders to lose some games in the final week of the season to get some help in order to get there.