LeBron James faces an indefinite layoff after suffering an ankle injury as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped to defeat against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday..
After writhing on the floor clutching his right ankle, the 36-year-old returned briefly to hit a three-pointer before limping back to the locker room, knocking over a chair in frustration.
ESPN later reported that an MRI scan revealed a high ankle sprain and that James faced an “indefinite” injury layoff.
Depending on the severity, high ankle sprains can take anywhere from a few weeks up to several months to recover from.
James did not speak to reporters afterwards but later vowed to return as soon as possible.
“I’m hurt inside and out right now. The road back from recovery begins now. Back soon like I never left.”
A lengthy layoff for James would be a devastating blow to the Lakers, who are already without star Anthony Davis due to a long-term injury. James and Davis were the key figures in the Lakers’ championship-winning season last year.
A grim-faced Lakers coach Frank Vogel admitted James’ injury would be a challenge but backed his team to adjust to the star’s absence.
“It’s certainly going to be a challenge any time you’re undermanned,” Vogel said after the loss. “But if you play team first basketball and you defend at our level you’ll have a chance to win and that’ll be our mindset.
– ‘Unnecessary’ play –
Vogel meanwhile declined to comment on the mood in the Lakers locker room over James’ injury.
“The mood of the team is that we’re disappointed we lost,” Vogel said.
Lakers team-mates Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell admitted that the sight of James leaving the arena was unnerving.
“He’s one of these guys who takes care of his body to an extreme amount,” Harrell said. “He has all the high-tier recovery gear. He eats, sleeps and prepares his body right. He’s the first one in this arena on game day, and he’s the first one at the facility on practice days.
“We do forget he’s human sometimes, to see him in pain like that.”
Harrell meanwhile was unhappy with the challenge from Hill that led to James’ injury.
“We don’t feel like it was one of those basketball-type plays,” Harrell said. “He had to go through his leg to get the ball.”
The Lakers’ Dennis Schroder was similarly unimpressed, saying he felt Hill’s dive for the ball was “unnecessary.”
With James missing, the Lakers offense struggled to get in the groove as the Hawks notched their eighth consecutive victory.
The Lakers fell to 28-14 with the loss to remain in second place in the Western Conference while the Hawks improved to 22-20 in the Eastern Conference standings.
John Collins led the scoring for Atlanta with 27 points and 16 rebounds while Danilo Gallinari added 18 off the bench.