LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James is back in the lineup for the Los Angeles Lakers after the longest injury-related absence of his 16-year career.
The leading All-Star vote-getter was set to play against the Clippers on Thursday night after missing 17 games. He was originally listed as out but was upgraded to doubtful earlier in the day.
Lakers coach Luke Walton said James won’t be on a minutes restriction, but he’ll be closely watched. The four-time league MVP has participated in two full-contact practices leading up to his return.
James’ last game was on Christmas at Golden State, where he strained his left groin.
The Lakers went 6-11 during James’ absence and fell out of a potential playoff spot.
He is averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists.
Kyle Kuzma (left hip strain) and Josh Hart (left knee tendinitis) also returned Thursday.
The Lakers got Rajon Rondo back last week. He was also hurt in the Christmas win over the Warriors.
They remain without Lonzo Ball, who has an ankle sprain that will keep him out until at least late February.
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