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LeBron James “likely” to return vs. Knicks

Lakers, LeBron James

LeBron James could return for the Los Angeles Lakers showdown with the New York Knicks on Tuesday at Staples Center.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel told reporters that James was a full participant in practice on Monday, which included drill work and scrimmaging. Vogel said a formal decision has not been made on LeBron’s availability for Tuesday.

Minutes later, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that James’ ankle is “pain-free after several days off – and able to make hard cuts and elevate,” and a return vs. New York is “likely.”

Vogel said the plan remains to take it “one day at a time” with the four-time MVP.

Marc Gasol offered some key insight into James’ recovery, too, during his post-practice media Zoom.

“He’s around. He’s been doing basketball stuff,” Gasol shared. Thanks, Marc.

James has missed the past four games since re-aggravating his high right ankle sprain last Sunday. After missing 20 games — the longest absence of his 18-year career — James tested out his ankle for two games (both losses) against the Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors.

The Lakers are 2-2 since James returned to the sideline, largely thanks to the two-way dominance of Anthony Davis, who has regained his rhythm and All-NBA form.

After AD’s third stellar performance of the week in a win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night, he provided another source of hope for Lakers fans, hinting that James’ recent workouts had been promising.

“What I seen from LeBron today, he’ll be fine,” Davis said with a smirk. “Trust me. He’ll be fine. He’s been in this league long enough to be able to come back and lock in and do what he gotta do to help the team.”

Both Vogel and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope echoed Davis’ coy assessment of James.

“He looks good in his workouts,” Vogel said. “Obviously, there’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment period with him, in terms of him getting his rhythm and timing back. Hopefully, we have enough time for that to pick up very quickly. I’ve tended to learn to have confidence in LeBron James in situations like that.”

KCP reference James’ improved ability to “elevate,” as Woj mentioned in his report.

“I feel like he’ll be playoff-ready,” KCP said Sunday. “The rest, the recovery … just seeing his workouts. He’s really put in that work, getting himself back together to 100 percent. He’s shown in his workouts. He’s going hard in drills, dunking the ball. Just seeing that, we’re very excited.”

With four games remaining, the Lakers trail the Portland Trail Blazers by one game for the no. 6 seed, though Portland owns the tiebreaker. L.A. will finish their regular season with two back-to-backs: vs. the Knicks and Houston Rockets at home, then visit the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans over the weekend.