LeBron James will be back in the starting lineup for Tuesday evening tip in Indiana after missing Saturday’s loss at Golden State.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out there with the guys,” he confirmed at shootaround.
Luke Walton added that LeBron almost played against the Warriors, but it was decided that he would not shortly after the team arrived at the arena. There is no minutes restriction for James tonight. He played 40 minutes in Thursday’s OT win against the Clippers, though of course Walton would like to keep him to a number lower than that.
The Lakers do get a break from the way the NBA schedule works out for this one, as Indiana played a tightly contested game in New Orleans last night while the Lakers were already resting at their Indianapolis hotel. The Pacers won 109-107, and landed well after midnight.
Indiana has been without Victor Oladipo for five games now, after the All-Star went down with a season-ending knee injury against Toronto on Jan. 23. They lost their first four games without him (at MEM, vs. GSW, at WAS, at ORL) before beating Miami on Saturday, and then the Pelicans.
The Pacers did manage to go 7-4 without Oladipo when he missed some time in November and December. One of those four losses came at Staples Center, when L.A. won 104-96, getting 38 points, nine boards and seven assists from LeBron.
“You know they’re going to be prepared, they’re going to play hard and they’re going to play the right way, and they’re going to be very aggressive,” said James.
Meanwhile, Lance Stephenson is set to return to the arena in which he played parts of six NBA seasons, including all 82 games last year.
“Lance is always pretty hype anyways, but that’s just his passion for the game of basketball,” said LeBron. “We’re happy to have him on our side; we know he has a pretty good fanbase for the time that he was here, the work that he put in while he was here with the Pacers, so (we’re) excited to see him make a couple plays.”
When asked if he’d play in L.A.’s three remaining road games prior to the All-Star break, LeBron said his focus was all on the Pacers at the moment.
“I don’t really play into the future, I play for tonight, and we go from there,” he explained.
Walton, several young players and LeBron have been asked about Thursday’s imminent trade deadline and the impact of rumors and speculation, but James perhaps summarized it best.
“I follow it just as much as anybody in our league follows it, but at the same time, keeping the main thing the main thing, and that’s what we’re trying to do here is try to win ball games,” said James. “I tend not to play too much fantasy basketball … if something were to occur with our team … we’ll approach it then. But right now, this is the group that we have, and we’re missing a key part of our team with (Lonzo Ball) being out, so we have to win ballgames.”
Tip-Off: 4:00 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Purple Statement
Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse — Indianapolis, Indiana