How did LeBron James return from injury? The Lakers star has come off the bench for the second time in his career
After missing 13 games with a foot injury, LeBron James returned to the floor against the Bulls on Sunday.
James’ return was a departure from what the superstar power forward is used to, coming off the bench for the second time in his career.
The Lakers held their own in James’ absence, going 8-5 to enter the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Los Angeles is just two games back from its six-game losing streak against Chicago on Sunday as it tries to lock in a playoff spot during the home stretch of the season.
With seven games to go, James’ return is a big boost as the Lakers try to avoid missing the postseason for the second year in a row.
How did James look when he returned to earth? The Sporting News takes a look at his first game, as well as the only other time the four-time MVP came off the bench.
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How did LeBron James return from injury?
The Lakers took a timeout with 6:32 to play in the first quarter, creating anticipation for James to take the floor since Feb. 26. Even off the bench, James had to give his signature chalk draw. to get the crowd going.
It was a quiet first quarter for James, who was clearly trying to ease into a rhythm. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer was playing passively, attempting just two shots in his first season on the floor.
He finally got going on offense in the second quarter, proving his foot was healthy enough to run downhill and pressure the rim.
James started out more like himself in the second half with 11 points, but missed two 3-point attempts and had a sloppy shift.
The Lakers’ defense was so poor, James’ return wasn’t going to be enough to get the job done. The Bulls shot 54.0 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from 3, pulling away from Los Angeles midway through the fourth quarter.
Even though the Lakers were out of the game, trailing by double digits (aside from a late push in the final minutes), coach Darvin Ham elected to keep James on the floor until less than a minute remained in the game.
In perhaps a good sign of his foot injury situation, James logged 30 minutes, just six short of his season average.
He had 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists and five turnovers. It was clear that there would be an adjustment period as James works his way back into the Lakers’ rotation.
LeBron James history off the bench
It was the second time James has come off the bench in 1,680 career games. The only other case? On December 11, 2007, against the Pacers, as a member of the Cavaliers.
James missed five straight games with a sprained left index finger. According to a story from Business InsiderWhen he was ready to make his comeback, he chose to come off the bench to protect his teammate, Anderson Varejao, from being booed.
Varejao was playing his first game of the season after a contract holdup delayed his debut.
“I thought the intensity of the fans would go up, that me, Larry (Hughes) and Andy would come into the game at the same time, and it worked,” James told the media after the game, per Don McCormack of Amico Hoops . .
“I thought coming with Andy would stop some of the impulses Andy might get.”
James was still his usual impact, earning 17 points, five assists, three rebounds, one steal and one block in 23 minutes as a reserve.
“This was a done deal for me. I’m not coming off the bench again,” James said after the 2007 game.
It lasted until March 26, 2023.