Frank Vogel offered the latest update on LeBron James and his abdominal strain on Sunday, and he declined to confirm whether James would play or sit out when the Lakers played the Bulls on Monday.
But before tip-off, head coach Frank Vogel gave the latest update on his star’s ongoing return to the court, and it was a positive one. While Vogel declined to answer if James would play or not on Monday against the Chicago Bulls — smiling and answering simply saying James is still “day-to-day” when asked — he also said that he wasn’t sure James would need to practice first before returning.
“He looks good. He’s moving. He hasn’t done a full practice or contact yet but he’s looking good moving around in his individual work,” Vogel said.
That’s good news, because with games at least every other day until the start of December, opportunities for practice will be few and far between (for context, the Lakers have only had four since the regular season started).
But another positive sign on the James front came when Vogel was talking about why he changed the starting lineup for the second game in a row, starting the returning Talen Horton-Tucker over Kent Bazemore alongside Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley and Russell Westbrook. And during his explanation for the move, Vogel made it sound like he’s pretty optimistic he’ll be getting his star back shortly.
“Hopefully we’ll be getting LeBron back soon, and in the meantime for today’s game at least, we’re gonna start Melo (to) give us a different look,” Vogel said.
Vogel said that Anthony had earned a look with the starters because of how well he’s played and how he’s committed on defense, but also seemed to telegraph that when James does return, he may be replacing Anthony as the small-ball 4 in this starting group.
“When LeBron went out, we thought about sliding AD to the 5. But with LeBron out and Trevor [Ariza] out, we liked the rhythm that Melo had coming off the bench,” Vogel said. “When LeBron comes back, he’ll (Melo) go back to his bench role.”
That would certainly be the type of all-in on offense and small-ball approach that is likely to get the most out of Russell Westbrook, and it’s all the latest positive indicator that the Lakers feel confident that James will be back shortly. At this point, whether he plays vs. Chicago on Monday or not, it would be sort of surprising if he doesn’t return this week.
If James can’t go against the Bulls, his next chances to return will be on Wednesday against the Milwaukee Bucks, or on Friday against the Boston Celtics as the Lakers begin a five-game, East coast road trip.