King James is returning to his court.
LeBron James returned to the court Thursday night as the Los Angeles Lakers faced the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center. James started and scored his first points in over a month on a fastbreak lay-up about four minutes into the game
James had been sidelined with a strained groin since he was injured during the Christmas Day game against the Golden State Warriors. It was believed then he would be out just a short time, but it has turned into the longest injury absence of James’ career.
During his absence, the Lakers stumbled, going 6-11, and are ninth in the Western Conference standings.
Meanwhile, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and company haven’t exactly melded as coach Luke Walton was hoping, although they have shown flashes of improvement. Ball is out with an injury. Ingram had his best game this week, scoring a career-high 36 points in Tuesday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. Rajon Rondo has been left to much of the playmaking duties, but he’s not exactly fresh legs.
While the Lakers need James at 100 percent, they also need to win this game. They sit two games behind the Clippers in the standings in a conference that could see a team miss the playoffs by one game. That will mean they have to stop red-hot Tobias Harris.
James is coming back just in time, as the Lakers are heading into a five-game stretch on the road against opponents that include the reigning champion Warriors, Boston Celtics and 76ers before the All-Star Game break.