LeBron James doubtful against Nuggets with thoracic muscle strain

Eric He
Yahoo Sports Contributor

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is likely to miss his first game of the season when the Lakers host the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. James was listed as doubtful with a thoracic muscle strain around his rib cage.

James has played in all 29 games this season for the Lakers, averaging 25.8 points, 10.6 assists and 7.5 rebounds. But he did not practice on Saturday with the injury.

Head coach Frank Vogel said that James sustained the injury against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday and played through it on Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Lakers lost both games — their first back-to-back losses this season.

‘If I’m healthy, I play’

While other NBA stars such as the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard have opted to rest certain regular season games due to “load management,” James has been vocal in his opposition to the concept. Last week, he made clear that as long as he is able, he is going to suit up.

“If I’m healthy, I play,” James said, via the Los Angeles Times. “I mean, that should be the approach. I mean, unless we’re getting to like late in the season and we’ve clinched and we can’t get any better or any worse, it could benefit from that, but why wouldn’t I play if I’m healthy? It doesn’t make any sense to me, personally.”

The 34-year-old, in his 17th NBA season, added that he isn’t sure how much longer he has left to play.

“I mean, I don’t know how many games I got left in my career,” James said. “I don’t know how many kids that may show up to a game and they’re there to come see me play and if I sit out, then what? That’s my obligation.”

James has helped lead the Lakers’ resurgence to the top of the NBA standings, forming an elite 1-2 punch with newcomer Anthony Davis. The Lakers are 24-5 and in position to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. And James, chasing his fourth championship but first in Los Angeles with Father Time winding down on his career, wants to savor every moment of it.

So, it’s likely that if James sits out on Sunday, he actually is injured and this isn’t a case of load management.

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