MILWAUKEE — After the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks 109-102 to fall to 8-8 this season, LeBron James opened the door to making his return from an abdominal strain on Friday in Boston.
“I hope,” James told ESPN on Wednesday when asked if he would play against the Celtics after missing the past eight games and 10 of L.A.’s 16 games because of injury. “I hope.”
While Lakers coach Frank Vogel said James is “day to day,” sources close to James told ESPN that there is a “50-50” chance he will be back in the lineup at the TD Garden.
In 54 career regular-season games in Boston, James is averaging 28.9 points per game, his highest scoring average in any road arena other than Cleveland, where he has averaged 29.1 points in 17 games as a visitor.
James went through an on-court workout before Wednesday’s game, with Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy putting him through ball-handling and shooting drills. James, who turns 37 next month, paused the workout on a handful of occasions to crouch down in what appeared to be an attempt to stretch out his abdomen.
“I was hoping he was going to play each of the last seven games or whatever it’s been since he’s been out,” Vogel said. “I always hope he’s going to play. I’m always optimistic. He’s still day to day. No decisions are made.”
The coach was asked what hurdles, if any, James would have to clear in order to get the green light to play.
“I’ll leave that to the medical team,” Vogel said. “I know he did some work today. I haven’t gotten the reports on how that went yet. But I’ll leave that between him and the medical team to make the decision of when he’s ready to go.”
L.A. fell to 4-6 without James this season but were 4-2 with him, despite James not playing up to his usual standards.
In those six games, James averaged 24.8 points — his lowest scoring output since averaging 20.9 points as a rookie — while also averaging his least amount of rebounds (5.5) since his rookie year and his least amount of assists (7.0) since 2015-16. His 46.7% shooting mark from the field is also his lowest since shooting 41.7% as a rookie and his 4.2 turnovers per game are tied with his 2017-18 season for his career high.
When asked to evaluate the Lakers with approximately 20% of the season in the books, Anthony Davis referred to James’ injuries and the roster’s overall lack of health as reasons why it’s difficult to land on an accurate assessment.
“We put a team together and we haven’t seen it yet,” Davis said. ” Once we get everybody back, we can kind of see, to be honest. Until then, just got to fight with what we got.”