How LeBron James' return affects Lakers' final 7 games

LeBron James returned to the Lakers lineup on Sunday against the Bulls. His return was earlier than expected, as he went from being ruled out to doubtful to questionable to game-time decision to available in the span of a day.

James missed 13 games due to a torn tendon in his right foot. This injury usually keeps players out longer, but James claimed he had the “LeBron James of feet” on his side. The team was able to stay afloat, as their trade deadline moves brought in a ton of depth. They went 8-5 during James’ absence and are now 37-38 and ninth in the Western Conference.

In his return, James came off the bench, and Los Angeles lost 118-108. The Lakers will face off against the Bulls again on Wednesday. 

After getting his footing back, James should be much more impactful in the remaining games. James has been great when he has been on the court this season, averaging 29/8/7 while shooting 50.2% from the field.

The remaining seven games are crucial as the West is in a close race. Three games separate the Lakers from the 4th-seed Phoenix Suns, while 1.5 games separate them from the 6th-seed Minnesota Timberwolves.

Alternatively, Darvin Ham’s group only holds a 0.5-game lead over the 11th-seed Dallas Mavericks.

James hopes to push the team to a top-six seed in this final stretch of the regular season to avoid the play-in tournament. 

The team played well before James’ return, and the rotation got better, adding in one of the greatest players ever. 

Anthony Davis is a pivotal piece to this run as the co-star to James. However, contributions from D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Jarred Vanderbilt, Troy Brown Jr, Dennis Schroder, Malik Beasley, Rui Hachimura, Lonnie Walker IV, and Wenyen Gabriel will be needed.

This rotation has done well, and inserting James into the lineup only makes it better. The roster has tremendous depth around their star duo of James and Davis. 

The group struggled at times offensively without James. Ham now has the option to stagger James and Davis, which should help eliminate dry spells on offense.

The remaining seven games will be against the Bulls, Timberwolves, Rockets, Jazz, Clippers, Suns, and Jazz. Compared to other teams out West, this is a favorable schedule. It’s up to James and the Lakers to execute.

They will look to keep building as they have this second half of the season in pursuit of the 18th championship in franchise history.

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