Lakers’ LeBron James sits out against 76ers with sore knee, will be ‘day-to-day’

PHILADELPHIA — Throughout the previous 18 games, one of the most dominant scoring stretches of his career, LeBron James had continually scoffed at the idea that he needs work taken off his plate.

“For me, I don’t get caught up in usage rates and heavy loads and things of that nature,” James said earlier this month. “That’s been me my whole career, since I was an 18-year-old kid taking over a franchise. So, that type of pressure or that type of load is something I’m accustomed to – I’ve been accustomed to for 20 years.”

But while James might carry the mentality of an 18-year-old, he still has the body of a 37-year-old. And it might have been his workload that called in its tab.

James missed Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers after waking up with left knee soreness. Coach Frank Vogel said the Lakers would monitor the injury day-to-day, but it appeared to threaten the availability of the NBA’s second-leading scorer for Friday’s game in Charlotte.

No stranger to missing players, Vogel was stoic during his pregame press conference.

“Got to get a win; whoever we have in uniform, that’s always been the focus,” he said. “Whichever guys are out, you focus on the guys that are in and we always have enough.”

Of course, James has been the Lakers’ best weapon this season.

Thursday night was also the evening when James was announced as an All-Star starter, earning team captain honors for the fifth year in a row as the top vote-getter in the league. James’ 18th straight All-Star appearance ties Kobe Bryant’s record for consecutive berths, and it is the ninth time James has led in All-Star voting.

James shot his way to the top of voting with an MVP-caliber offensive stretch: In his last 18 games, he has averaged 32.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocked shots while shooting 54.1%. He’s scored at least 25 points in each of those games.

Playing without James for an undefined stretch will alter how the Lakers play. While the team started Anthony Davis at center against Philadelphia, they rotated in center Dwight Howard instead of playing the small-ball lineups in which James has thrived. Without James, Vogel said, the lineups don’t really work.

“We haven’t felt great about our center-less lineups without Bron in there, just if Melo as the only big or Trevor, Stanley, etc,” Vogel said. “So I do expect to see Dwight in there some tonight and we’ll approach that on a game-to-game basis, if LeBron is out past tonight.”

James had played in 25 straight games for L.A. after missing 12 of the first 23 this season because of right ankle soreness, a suspension and a false positive result on a COVID-19 test. The Lakers went into Thursday’s game 5-7 without him in the lineup compared to 19-17 with him.


When he was thrust into duty for the Lakers on Christmas Day, Stanley Johnson called it a memory that he’d always treasure. That was in part because the 25-year-old, who had just joined the team on a 10-day contract, wasn’t sure how many more memories he’d create with his hometown franchise.

A month later, Johnson knows where he’ll be for the rest of the season: in a Lakers uniform. The former Mater Dei High star signed a deal on Thursday that will keep him on the roster for the rest of this season and includes a team option for the 2022-23 season.

“I couldn’t have dreamed of something like this in wildest my dreams,” Johnson said. “Obviously, I wanted it. … Seeing a 10-day guy with a fit like this, it’s happened before. And it will happen again. But it doesn’t happen a lot.”

After starting the season with the G League affiliate South Bay Lakers, Johnson has gone from a short-handed pickup to an essential role player with his defensive intensity and occasional spurts of offense. Johnson’s 6.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game entering Thursday night undersell his value as a hard-nosed defender at a position of need.

But even though Vogel was quick to laud Johnson’s contributions since joining the team in December, Johnson flipped the narrative that the Lakers needed him.

“I think it’s the opposite: What they do, I needed,” he said. “Everything I’ve looked for leadership-wise and getting put into the right directions, I think I’ve found it here with the Lakers. They’ve done a good job being honest and putting me in the right direction. You know how communication goes. If you have it, it’s awesome. If you don’t have it, it really does suck. So having that communication has been a blessing.”

One of the people who congratulated Johnson in the tunnels of Wells Fargo Center was Stan Van Gundy, his former coach in Detroit. Johnson was the Pistons’ No. 8 overall draft pick in 2017, and for a player selected that high, his career has generally fallen short of expectations.

Acknowledging that past, Johnson said he’s “blessed” to be where he is, close to his hometown, still crafting his career.

“When I was younger, I used to sit back and that stuff used to mean a little to me,” he said. “At this point, like, if I had it their way, I wouldn’t be here now. So, I’m just kind of writing my own story and kind of going day-by-day. …  I’m past the point of ‘Oh, let me try to fix this wrong or fix this right.’ I’m just happy to be here, a whole new story. I was 18 then. I’m 25 now. A whole new thing.”

Older Post Newer Post