NBA: LeBron James looks "like his old self" in LA Lakers return
Both LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel were happy with the star's showing as he returned to the lineup Saturday.
After missing the better part of two months following an ankle injury, LeBron James sounded a positive note following his return to the Los Angeles Lakers lineup Saturday.
James: "I felt pretty good - a lot better than I did last time"
James played 28 minutes in the Lakers' 122-115 win over the Indiana Pacers, scoring 24 points and adding eight assists and seven rebounds.
He had missed 26 of the Lakers' previous 28 games after hurting his ankle on 20 March, but said he felt much better on Saturday than he had in his brief return to play two weeks ago.
"I felt pretty good - a lot better than I did last time I suited up," James said.
"Just been putting in a lot of work, obviously off the floor, just getting my ankle right, getting my foot right, but I felt pretty good going into the game.
"I think every game I'll get better and better, but it was a good first test for me."
Lakers coach Vogel pleased with James' positive progress
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel was pleased with what he saw, though he did not indicate how much James might play in Sunday's regular-season finale.
"I think he looked really good," Vogel said. "Obviously it's still going to take time before he gets to a 100 per cent but I thought most of the game he was in control and looked like his old self."
The key indicator for James was the way he felt in the second half.
The last time he played, on 2 May against the Toronto Raptors, his leg and ankle grew noticeably stiff at halftime. There were no such issues Saturday.
"Being in the Toronto game just gave me a sense of where I was as far as my ankle, physically, but I needed that. I needed that test to see where I was then to know where I needed to go," James added.
"Today was another opportunity to see where I'm at and how far I can go, too. I've still got some more room for improvement as far as my ankle, my mobility and my strength, but I'm 10 times better than I was in that Toronto game and I believe I can get five to 10 times better in the future.
LBJ and AD lead the @Lakers to 4 straight.. they can clinch the #NBAPlayoffs with a win + a Portland loss tomorrow!@AntDavis23: 28 PTS, 10 REB@KingJames: 24 PTS, 7 REB, 8 AST pic.twitter.com/AC4V6G0WIT— NBA (@NBA) May 15, 2021
"The more games that we have, the more opportunity I have to continue to strengthen it, strengthen everything around it, and continue to get better.
"We've got a great team. I've got a great team around me. My trainer's on me every single day, and I'm on myself about doing what I can do to be available to this team and controlling what I can control. That's all I can worry about."
Lakers chasing final playoff spot in Sunday Pelicans clash
The Lakers enter Sunday level with the Portland Trail Blazers at 41-30, with the final spot in the Western Conference top six on the line.
Los Angeles will play at the New Orleans Pelicans and Portland face the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, with both games starting at the same time. The Lakers need to win and have Portland lose to avoid the play-in tournament, as the Blazers own the tie-breaker between the two.
James said it does not matter to him or the team which seed the Lakers end up getting. "Let the chips fall where they may. Simple as that," he said. "We're ready to go."
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