LeBron James will miss the Los Angeles Lakers’ crosstown duel with the Clippers on Thursday as the reigning NBA champions aim to get their superstar healthy for the playoffs.
“He’s out for the Clippers. He’ll be day-to-day after that,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel told reporters on Wednesday, two days after James sat out the Lakers’ win over the Denver Nuggets because of soreness in his injured right ankle in his two-game return.
James missed 20 games with a high right ankle sprain.
When he returned against the Sacramento Kings last week the Lakers hoped to have him back for the last 10 games of the regular season.
But plans changed after he departed the Lakers’ loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday midway through the fourth quarter, later saying he had experienced some pain.
“It’s not an ideal situation,” Vogel acknowledged. “Ideally, he’s 100% and has 10 games to get his legs and rhythm and timing under him.
“We’re not going to have that situation. So we’re going to make the best of it.”
The Lakers are sixth in the Western Conference with a one-game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers. The seventh through 10th placed teams will have to compete in the NBA’s play-in tournament to reach the playoffs proper.
But Vogel said the Lakers wouldn’t rush the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player.
“We want him back as soon as possible. But we want him back as healthy as possible,” Vogel said. “That’s the number one goal. Wherever we end up in the standings, we want him as healthy as possible going into the playoffs.
“Other than that, we’re just going to compete and try to win as many games down the stretch here.”
The Lakers are 9-13 without James this season. His brief return proved no panacea as they lost both games he played before beating Denver without him.