James missed 26 games because of the high ankle sprain, and when he played in the first round of the playoffs against the Phoenix Suns, he was not the same.
As the Lakers prepare to open the 2021-22 season Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center, James recalled how “it took a while” for him to become fully healthy following that injury.
Now, James said he is healed and ready to play.
“I didn’t do much basketball stuff for probably the first two months of the summer, which is very rare for me, because my ankle wasn’t responding how I would like it to respond,” James said Monday after practice. “And the best thing about the summertime was I had time. I had time to just really get ready when my ankle was ready to go. I was always training, just wasn’t on the basketball court much.
“Always doing other stuff, training, pushing, seeing if I could do other stuff with my ankle, and until I got to a point where I didn’t feel any sharp pains anymore, and my flexibility was back to where it was before. That’s when I knew I could get back on the floor.”
James averaged 33.4 minutes per game last season, a career low. Yet he averaged 25 points, 7.8 assists and 7.7 rebounds in 45 games.
He turns 37 in December, which led to him being asked about his playing time this season.
“I don’t play the game thinking about injuries,” James said. “And I also feel worse when I play low minutes.”
Resting players has become the new thing in the NBA, but James abhors that way of thinking.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel still will have to decide what kind of workload James will have this season, saying it will be “day to day.”
“We will be intelligent,” Vogel said. “He’s someone that if he feels well, [he] wants to be in there. … Probably don’t want to have him play 82 games. But we’re not going to pre-script X amount of nights off. We’re going to take it as it comes throughout the year.”
As far as James’ playing time, Vogel said they have a plan in place for his minutes.
“We still want to be around the 34 range, as a script 34 to 36, and obviously hope for a situation where the group out on the floor is playing where you can leave him over there [on the bench] a little longer,” Vogel said. “It actually in some ways, if he stays over there too long and he gets cold, it’s worse for him to get back in there, especially since he’s been playing this type of rotation for so long. But we want to keep it around 34 minutes ideally.”
In Year 19 of his illustrious career, James said he’s still “motivated to have an opportunity to win a championship,” and that is what has his juices flowing for this season and a veteran-laden Lakers team.
He has won five titles, including one with the Lakers in 2020.
“That’s why I play the game,” James said. “It’s one of the greatest, shortest feelings that you have. You win a championship and everything that you put into that year, it just hits you all at once. And literally, a couple of hours later, it’s like, ‘It’s over.’ And the whole time, you’re just trying to figure out how to get that moment again. Seriously.
“That’s part of motivation still, just always trying to get that feeling. It’s like when you go to Cedar Point [in Ohio], the greatest amusement park in the world and you ride the greatest ride. And that ride is taking its damn-well time getting to the top, and you’re there in total excitement. And then you finally go down that hill. And you’re like, ‘OK, I want to ride it again.’ But it’ll take you three hours to get back on that ride. You’re like, ‘I would rather just go somewhere else.’ That’s kind of like the moment of winning a championship.”
The Lakers announced they claimed guard Avery Bradley, who was waived by the Warriors last week. Bradley played 49 games for the Lakers during the championship season but declined to join the team in the NBA bubble because of health concerns for his son. He averaged 8.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and was a strong defender for the Lakers.
Vogel said guard Wayne Ellington (left hamstring) is out, Kendrick Nunn (right ankle) is questionable and Malik Monk (right groin) is probable.
VS. GOLDEN STATE
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 710, 1330
Update: Vogel wouldn’t say who will start alongside James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, but the speculation is that it will be DeAndre Jordan at center and Kent Bazemore at guard. Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who led the NBA in scoring last season by averaging 32 points, warmed up for the season opener by dropping 41 points in their last exhibition. The Warriors will be missing All-Star guard Klay Thompson (Achilles) as well as second-year center James Wiseman (knee) and first-round pick Jonathan Kuminga (patellar tendon).
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source: Yahoo Sports