At long last, the king has returned.
Lakers star LeBron James will return to action Friday night against the Kings, the team announced more than an hour before tip-off. James has been out since suffering a sprained ankle against the Hawks on March 20.
James has missed the team's last 20 games, during which the Lakers have posted an 8-12 record. The stretch marks the longest absence of James's 18-year career.
Speaking to reporters before the game, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said James would not have a hard cap on his minutes tonight, with the only guiding edict to "be responsible, per Bill Oram of The Athletic. Star big man Anthony Davis recently returned from injury and was limited to 17 minutes in his first game back. Since returning, Davis played in four games and averaged 16.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
Prior to his injury, James had been among the frontrunners for the MVP award. In 41 games, he's averaging 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game while shooting 51.3% from the field and 36.8% on 3-point attempts.
The Lakers would go on to lose 110–106 with James registering 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 32 minutes on the floor. James said his ankle felt "tight" at times and that the injury could have a permanent effect on him.
"I don't ever think I'll ever get back to 100% in my career," he said after the game.
With nine games left in the regular season, the Lakers currently hold the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference, half a game ahead of the Mavericks for the No. 6 seed and one ahead of the Trail Blazers for the No. 7 seed.
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