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Rumor: Lakers privately ‘a little concerned’ about LeBron James

LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers have privately had their reservations about LeBron James and his health after he returned from a career-long absence, following a groin injury sustained on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors.

James missed more than a month, and while the Lakers were at first optimistic that holding him out for longer would soothe worries of an extended absence, his play has left them “a little concerned” for his well-being, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

On paper, James is doing all the right things, averaging a strong triple-double with 23.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 11.0 assists since returning to the lineup the last five games. Yet it’s more than a 2-3 record since he fully rejoined his teammates or the embarrassing 42-point loss to a decimated Indiana Pacers or a loss to the hapless Atlanta Hawks; it’s in fact the optics of his play that are concerning:

“He’s just not moving at the same speed nor is he engaging at the point of attack,” wrote Vardon. “That fourth-quarter moment in a loss to the Hawks on Wednesday in which Trae Young switched onto LeBron, and instead of taking the much smaller Young off the dribble LeBron casually threw the ball to Brandon Ingram in the corner? There are several examples like this.”

James has been deferring to his teammates a lot more than expected. While this is a common tactic he has used throughout his career to show them faith and strength of play, the situation requires every thread of the Superman cape he put on during last season’s stretch with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So far, it looks like he’s still not himself, at least not to the full extent the Lakers expected after such a long absence. LeBron insists he’s feeling “great,” so perhaps we’ll see him turn things up after the All-Star break.