LOS ANGELES -- LeBron James reiterated on Thursday during a video conference call with reporters that his left ankle is good to go and he intends to play on Christmas Day.
James rolled his ankle in the Los Angeles Lakers’ season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers but continued to play, finishing the game with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists in a 116-109 loss last week.
“I’ll be ready to go tomorrow, on Christmas Day,” James said. “I’ve never missed a Christmas Day game, so I don’t plan on missing one tomorrow.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said the team considered the possibility of not playing James on Friday due to the condensed offseason and wanting to keep players healthy for the duration of the season.
However, Vogel echoed James’ comments that he’s healthy enough to play.
“I think you have to consider it, in light of the situation we’re in,” Vogel said. “And I think it was considered. But it’s really a mild ankle sprain, something that he can play on. So, if it was more significant, more severe than I think those types of things would factor into the decision. But it’s mild enough that he’s going to be good to go.”
The Lakers will host the Dallas Mavericks at the Staples Center. This year marks the 13th consecutive season and 14th time overall James will play on Christmas Day. His teams have a 9-5 record on Christmas Day.
James lamented playing at Staple Center without fans due to the stringent protocols necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 virus.
“On Christmas, you know that you’re going to have that Christmas feeling,” James said. “There’s going to be a lot of celebrities at the game. There’s going to be a lot of excitement. People have opened their gifts, and everyone is excited. It’s the day of giving for a lot of us.
“And then being in Staples Center, I’ve had an opportunity to play here on Christmas as a Laker, and also as an opponent. It’s a beautiful feeling being here, but it’s not the same without the Laker faithful, without the fans and without celebrity row and without the bright lights. It’s a totally different feeling. It’s strictly basketball, which is fine. But our game is entertainment as well. And when you’re out there, you’re hoping to entertain some people live as well.”
No fans in the arena at Staples Center is part of the new normal for James and the rest of the NBA as trudge through the start of the season, which included the Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder game postponed on Wednesday because the Rockets did not have enough eligible players available due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Once you get on the floor and start to play, it’s still basketball,” James said. “But this is not normal. I understand that. We all understand that. But the game of basketball is still pure. The game can be played with fans, or no fans. It can be played with shirts and skins, or whatever the case may be.
“I grew up playing all over my city, outside and indoors. So, the game is still pure, and I love that essence of it. But being at this level and not having the coverage, not having the fans and seeing you guys there, seeing the cameras on the floor and just all the things that go into getting to this level of our sport. So, it’s not normal, but the essence of the game is still there, and the love and passion are still there.”