The Lakers have played the last 23 games without Anthony Davis. They've been without LeBron James since March 20 - they are 4-5 during the stretch, 10-12 since Davis' injury. And while the timetables for their return are yet to be set, there are indications AD might be just a few games away from making a comeback.
There is some hope within the organization that he will return to the lineup after the Lakers' five-game Eastern Conference swing underway, but any injury that involves the Achilles' tendon, no matter how purportedly mild, is going to spook people until Davis gets back on the floor. Achilles' tendon injuries remain the most feared in the sport.
Marc Stein, New York Times
It's a different story with LeBron. Given his age and the potential severity of his injury, the 36-year-old superstar, playing his 18th NBA season, might be weeks from returning to the Lakers lineup. Then again, assuming his priority is to maximize his championship window alongside AD, The King might be back even sooner.
The reflex assumption, because this is James, is that he will return by month's end and duly return to elite form.
Marc Stein, New York Times
Especially judging by LeBron's Instagram post - it seems the Lakers superstar might return to action sooner than everyone thinks. And it seems James has no doubt that once they do return, the rest of the league will be in big trouble.
It's another rendition of LeBron's activation of Playoff mode after doing the same in '19. The only issue is, two seasons ago, activation failed. The Lakers went 8-15 since LBJ announced his intensity level going up, with the Akron native sitting out nine games over the stretch. They finished the season 10th in the West - 11 games behind the 8th seeded Clippers - missing the Playoffs in LeBron's debut season with the Purple and Gold.
With both of their superstars missing significant time, the chances of the same thing happening to the '21 Lakers are increasing by the day. They are 32-20, sitting fifth in the West, only 2.5 games up on the 7th seeded Mavericks. What are the chances of the '20 NBA champions falling into the play-in tournament? According to The Ringer, around 12%, and the outlook could easily worsen, especially if both LBJ and AD aren't back on the floor soon.
So when they do return, let's hope LeBron's activation button works this time. His championship window is closing, and after suffering the second significant injury since joining the Lakers, it seems father time is starting to catch up with James. He's still great - arguably the best player in the Association. But sooner or later, every run comes to an end. LeBron is not yet there, but he is as close as he's ever been.
That's why this season may as well be James' best chance of winning his fifth NBA title. With how odd this season has been for the Lakers, it'll take Playoff LeBron for their season to be saved. The King has announced his arrival, let's see how it plays out.