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LeBron James (foot) returns, comes off bench in loss to Bulls

The Lakers were 8-5 in LeBron's absence and reached .500 for the 1st time this season before Sunday's loss.

LeBron James has been sidelined for 13 straight games since suffering a tendon injury in his right foot on Feb. 26.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James came off the bench in the Lakers’ 118-108 home loss to Chicago on Sunday, finishing with 19 points and eight rebounds in finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 30 minutes.

James had played in a game as a reserve just once previously in his 20-year NBA career, doing it with Cleveland on Dec. 11, 2007 against the Indiana Pacers.

James said his doctors told him that he was “healing faster than anybody they’ve seen before with the injury.” Additionally, another factor contributed to his decision: James got a third opinion from an unnamed foot specialist.

“I went to the LeBron James of feet, and he told me I should (delay possible surgery),” James said, declining to name the doctor.

James hadn’t played since Feb. 26 due to a right foot tendon injury, but he resumed on-court activity on Thursday in hopes of getting back in the lineup for the final two weeks of the 2022-23 season.

He said he was inspired by his teammates while he put in 12-hour workdays between rehab and training to get back in action. Los Angeles went 8-5 while James was out despite adding five new rotation players around the trade deadline, finally developing some chemistry during their push.

“They go 8-5 and obviously had a chance to — the hell with the Play-In [Tournament], we actually can be a top-eight seed,” James said. “It definitely changed my mindset on me coming back and trying to be a part of this. Well, I don’t even want to say (it) changed my mindset. It just enhanced what I was trying to do as far as my workouts, as far as my treatment and everything.

“They played such great basketball. I was just ecstatic, from me being in a boot to me getting out of the boot, you guys saw me on the sideline, just so happy about what the guys are doing.”

The Lakers had one of their roughest performances in a month against the Bulls, falling behind by a huge early margin and never closing the gap.

Game Recap: Bulls 118, Lakers 108

James considered surgery after getting the sobering diagnosis, but his teammates’ outstanding play down the stretch and his own inner determination contributed to his decision to keep playing.

The Lakers (37-38) have seven games left in their left season and are attempting to avoid missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season (and the third time in James’ five seasons in Los Angeles). The current No. 9 seed in the Western Conference, the Lakers would be in the Play-In Tournament if the season ended today.

James, the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, is averaging a team-best 29.5 points along with 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game this season.

James said he doesn’t know whether he’ll need surgery after the season, but he expects to have an MRI exam after he’s done playing for the summer. He said he would be at full strength for training camp in the fall even if he has the surgery.

The Lakers provided few updates on James’ condition during his absence, and James kept the details of his recovery firmly under wraps on social media. He also missed five games earlier this season with a strained left adductor, and he has had lengthy injury absences in every full season during his time with the Lakers.

But James is looking healthy at a key point for the Lakers, who could finally have their full roster available for the final games of the stretch run.

While James returned, D’Angelo Russell was ruled out for a second straight game due to a right hip injury. Russell and James have played in only two games together since the Lakers acquired Russell in a trade last month because of injury absences for both players.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.