LeBron James is unlikely to return for the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, but Rajon Rondo could be back to help Luke Walton's depleted side.

Superstar James has missed 14 games since straining his left groin on December 25, with the Lakers going 5-9 since he and Rondo were injured.

Head coach Walton says James is making progress but does not foresee him taking to the court against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"I haven't seen him do contact yet, so I don't feel as confident," Walton said after Monday's 130-111 loss to the Golden State Warriors. 

"But I know you know how serious he is about his rehab. So he's doing everything possible and we've talked. 

"I know he's dying to get back on the basketball court, but he also knows that getting healthy is the top priority. 

"So whenever that day comes, he'll be back out there."

Rondo has also missed 14 games since having surgery to repair a ligament in his right ring finger

"I think Rondo will play Thursday as long as he continues to move with no setbacks until then, but that will be something that we'll keep pushing him and we'll re-evaluate each morning," Walton added.

With Lonzo Ball also out for four to six weeks with a sprained ankle, Brandon Ingram started at point guard and had three assists but also two turnovers against the Warriors.

Speaking after the game, Ingram said he was was eager to see Rondo's impact - beyond his 8.4 points, 6.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds in only 14 of the Lakers' 48 games this season.

"It gives us a leader, a leader on the basketball floor," Ingram said of Rondo. "It puts us in our spots on the offensive end. Pushes the pace, he can score the basketball. And it just makes our team better."

After being outclassed by Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open quarter-finals, Frances Tiafoe has his sights set on a meeting with NBA legend LeBron James.

The 21-year-old, unseeded at Melbourne Park, had never before been beyond the third round of a grand slam and defeating 17-time major champion Nadal proved too tall a task on Tuesday.

Nadal eased into a semi-final clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas courtesy of a routine 6-3 6-4 6-2 success on Rod Laver Arena as Tiafoe had no answer to the relentless Spaniard.

After wins over Kevin Anderson and Andreas Seppi en route to the last eight, Tiafoe imitated James' famed 'Silencer' celebration and the world number 39 was asked if he thought his run to the quarters would boost his chances of meeting the Los Angeles Lakers superstar.

"Man, forget about the slam. I thought once I had the celebration the first couple times, I thought I was going to get a meeting with him," Tiafoe told a news conference.

"I would love to meet him one day. That would mean the world to me.

"I think just kind of talk, pick his brain, see everything he's accomplished, just on and off court, to be just half the guy he is would be unbelievable. I look up to him with everything. He's a true role model."

Tiafoe was subsequently asked if James had messaged him following those copy-cat celebrations, to which he replied: "No, if he texted me, I wouldn't be here right now. I'd be FaceTiming him, if he had my number.

"Just the Instagram comment. Yeah, 'the silencer', that's all he said. That's it."

Lonzo Ball is set for a spell on the sidelines after injuring his ankle on Saturday, yet Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton insists it will not cause him to rush back LeBron James or Rajon Rondo.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton has one very important goal against the Houston Rockets, keep MVP contender James Harden under 50 points.

Reigning NBA MVP Harden has scored 57 and 58 points in his last two games at the Toyota Center.

Harden is averaging an NBA-best 35.4 points and has scored 30-plus in 18 consecutive contests.

The Rockets have gone 13-5 during that stretch while Harden has engineered three 50-point games and eight 40-point games.

Los Angeles are hoping to extend their two-game winning streak when they face the Rockets on Saturday and Walton singled out the threat of Harden.

"If we can keep him anything under 50, we feel like we've succeeded as a group," Walton said jokingly. "If he scores over 50, then the game plan did not work."

Walton added: "He's going to get fouls, he's going to get three-point shots, he's going to score.

"He's on an unbelievable tear right now. We just got to keep fighting and playing through all of it."

Los Angeles (25-21) are looking for their first three-game winning streak of the new year.

The last time the Lakers had a three-plus game win streak was the end of November.

They will continue to play without superstar LeBron James (groin) for the foreseeable future.

The timetable for his return is unclear and according to a recent interview with James' agent, he will not rush his comeback.

NBA referee Tom Washington conceded officials were wrong to award the Oklahoma City Thunder three free throws following Lonzo Ball's late foul after LeBron James had criticised the initial decision.

With his team winning 122-119 with less than five seconds to play, Lakers guard Ball reached in and fouled Thunder star Russell Westbrook. 

The referees ruled Westbrook was in the shooting motion, which gave him three free throws.

Westbrook made all three shots, sending the game to overtime, with the Lakers going on to win the game 138-128.

However, Washington explained afterwards that the call on Ball was wrong.

"The official called the foul because at the time he thought Russell had started his shooting motion and he was clearly behind the three-point line and there was illegal contact by Ball," he explained.

"There is not a trigger to review whether or not there is a foul prior to or on the shot.

"The trigger would be whether or not it is a three-point shot or not. And upon being able to see the review of the play, we realised that the illegal contact actually happened prior to his upward motion, so it should have been a side-out."

James had expressed his disbelief at the call on Twitter.

"So what really is 'in the shooting motion' rule?!?!?" James asked. "Asking for a friend @OfficialNBARefs."

This was a week filled with words.

In Boston, there was a request for forgiveness.

In Chicago, there were words of anger.

And in Alabama, there were words of thanks.

There was also a goodbye in 'Bama where a quarterback decided to move on.

Here is what's happening this week in U.S. Sports.


1. Kyrie Irving apologises to LeBron James

This one was a long time coming.

Kyrie Irving apologised to LeBron James over the weekend for being a young player who wanted everything at his fingertips while the pair were at the Cleveland Cavaliers. He came to the realisation he needed to call James and apologise after his public callout of his Boston Celtics did not strike the right tone.

"Going forward, I want to test these young guys, but I can't be a bully like that," Irving told reporters. "I want to get the best out of them, but I can't do it personally like that. That was a learning experience for me of being in this position of really realising the magnitude of my voice and what I really mean to these guys. I want to see them do well and do that where I empower them."


2. Those are fighting words

Manny Machado's free agency is getting contentious.

Details are starting to surface about an offer the Chicago White Sox made to the four-time All-Star with some saying the deal is for eight years and in the $200-plus million range while another came out Wednesday saying the offer was for seven years and $175m.

The second report did not go over well with Machado's agent Dan Lozano, who called the news "completely wrong".

"The absence of new information to report is no excuse to fabricate 'news' or regurgitate falsehoods without even attempting to confirm their validity and it is a disservice to baseball fans everywhere when the media does just that," Lozano wrote in a statement.

LeBron James will return to full practice next week, but will miss the Los Angeles Lakers' upcoming games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.

The 34-year-old superstar, who has not played since straining his groin against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, had his injury re-evaluated on Wednesday, having missed his side's last 11 contests.

He will not travel with the Lakers for their fixtures against Western Conference rivals the Thunder and Rockets on Thursday and Saturday respectively.

Games against the Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns follow next week, though James' availability for those matches remains uncertain after the Lakers' update did not specify how quickly he would be back after returning to the practice court.

He had participated in half-court shooting and passing drills during the Lakers’ shootaround on Tuesday and head coach Luke Walton spoke of his optimism over how quickly his key player would make his comeback.

"James, who will not travel with the team on the upcoming two-game road trip, has been cleared to return to practice commencing next week, and progress towards a return to game play thereafter," read a Lakers statement after his re-evaluation.

The Lakers' update came after his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, stressed James would not rush his recovery, telling The Athletic: "However long it takes, it takes. We're not on nobody else's timeline." 

The Lakers (24-21) are 4-7 without James and have slid to eighth in the Western Conference standings.

He underwent an MRI the day after the injury and revealed on Twitter he "dodged a bullet", but he will now take his total of missed games to 13, tying the most he has ever missed in any season of his NBA career, and the most he has ever missed consecutively, per ESPN.

James had played in 156 consecutive matches prior to suffering the problem in his left groin.

Los Angeles signed James to a four-year, $153.3 million contract in July. He is averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 34.6 minutes per game this season.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James continues to take steps towards returning to the court.

The 34-year-old, who has not played since straining his groin on December 25, participated in half-court shooting and passing drills during the Lakers' shootaround on Tuesday. He is set to be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

Lakers coach Luke Walton said he thinks the team will hear positive news after James is re-examined.

"I'm optimistic about life," Walton said, via ESPN. "So yes, that would be covered in that … I think we'll get good news back."

Walton said he was "encouraged" by James' participation in some parts of Tuesday's workout.

"[James] does a lot of [running] when we're not here," Walton said. "I don't know the [exact] amount of running he's doing. I just know he seems to be in good spirits. He's got another test tomorrow to get some more information on it."

James originally suffered the injury in the third quarter of the Lakers' win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. He met with trainers on the court, appeared to tell them he "felt it pop" and then headed to the locker room without assistance.

James underwent an MRI the following day and wrote on Twitter he "dodged a bullet". But, he has missed the Lakers' last 10 games. Los Angeles have tallied a 3-7 record in his absence.

Los Angeles signed James to a four-year, $153.3million contract in July. He is averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 34.6 minutes per game this season.

The Lakers will host the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. They will enter that matchup with a 23-21 record and on a two-game losing streak.

The Los Angeles Rams are now only one step away from their first NFL Super Bowl since 2002 after beating the Dallas Cowboys 30-22.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is taking steps toward getting back on the court following an evaluation on Thursday.

The 34-year-old has not played since suffering a groin strain in the third quarter of the Lakers' win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day.

He underwent an MRI the following day and has missed eight games in which Los Angeles have tallied a disappointing 3-5 record.

But James is progressing in his return and has now been cleared to "increase on-court functional basketball movements", the team announced after he was assessed by medical staff.

The former Cleveland Cavaliers forward, who is averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 34.6 minutes per game this season, is set to be evaluated again next Wednesday.

The Lakers signed James to a four-year $153.3million contract in July. Los Angeles (23-19) next face the Utah Jazz on the road on Friday.


The Milwaukee Bucks managed to overcome a big performance from James Harden to top the Houston Rockets 116-109 in the NBA. 

'Space Jam 2' director Terence Nance promised the highly anticipated movie featuring Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James will "disrupt everything".

James is following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan in more ways than one as he prepares to bring 'Space Jam' back to the big screen, with the NBA great set to star in the sequel.

Hall of Famer and Chicago Bulls great Jordan, who won six NBA titles and six Finals MVP awards, starred in the 1996 original.

With 'Space Jam 2' having been confirmed in September, Nance told VICE: "Pretty sure [it's] going to disrupt everything.

"I'm excited about what [...] that movie can be."

James – a three-time NBA champion and four-time MVP – is no stranger to Hollywood, having featured in Amy Schumer's 2015 romantic comedy 'Trainwreck'.

The former Cleveland Cavaliers star also has a new HBO series, 'The Shop' – an unscripted barbershop-set talk show.

"Space Jam is a very unique opportunity because LeBron James is the best basketball player on Earth and a once-in-a-generation performer," Nance said.

"Whoever the greatest basketball player of the next generation is going to be, they are probably not going to also be a great actor."

James is sidelined with a groin injury sustained in the Lakers' win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day.

LeBron James remains sidelined with a groin injury and will be re-evaluated on Friday, said Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton.

The NBA is headed back to China for a pair of preseason games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets.

Los Angeles and Brooklyn will travel to China ahead of the 2019-20 NBA season, the league announced on Monday.

The Lakers and Nets will play in Shanghai on October 10 and then again in Shenzhen two days later.

With the visit, Lakers forward Lance Stephenson would boast the most games logged in China by any NBA player after previously representing the Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans.

Similarly, the trip would be the third for Lakers star LeBron James, who played in China in 2007 with the Cleveland Cavaliers and 2013 with the Miami Heat.

In total, 17 teams have played 26 games in China and Taiwan dating back to 2004.

With veteran duo LeBron James and Rajon Rondo out injured, Luke Walton has urged other Los Angeles Lakers players to fill the leadership void.

The Lakers went down 119-112 to the New York Knicks at Staples Center on Friday, their fourth loss in five matches since James sustained a groin strain against the Golden State Warriors.

James will miss the Lakers' next two games and be reassessed next week, while Rondo is not expected to be back until February after having surgery on his finger.

After seeing his team surrender a six-point advantage in the fourth quarter against the Knicks, Walton wants to see greater maturity from his young core.

"It's got to come from the group. We know we have some of the best leaders in the game. We've got LeBron, Rondo and Tyson [Chandler], but they're hurt so it's up to other people to step up and lead," said Walton.

"Guys are doing it, we just have to do more of it. It's great when things are going well. The challenge is when we hit dry spells or other teams get hot, that's when it starts getting quiet.

"That's when we need it the most. That's when we need five guys huddling up on the court talking about what happened on the last play, what's going to happen on the next play. Being in the moment of playing.

"That's something that normally comes with age. We're playing a lot of young guys right now, but that's where we're at and we trust and we believe that the guys playing can win. We just have to do it."

Walton felt the Lakers broke away from a team ethic as they came under pressure in the fourth quarter, with too many individuals attempting solo plays.

"Until we accept that the team is the most important thing – and I can't tell if it's because we're missing open shots and layups if you will that we stop trusting each other," he said.

"But the ball was moving beautifully when we built up our lead then we got to the fourth and we had a couple possessions of nice ball movement and then when shots didn't go in, guys start trying to do it on their own and that's not a recipe for us to win.

"For what we're playing with and the amount of injuries we have to guys who are a huge part of what we do, we've got to play for one another, the guys that are out there on the court. It cost us again in the fourth quarter. A little frustrating, but no one's feeling sorry for us."

JaVale McGee was one of the Lakers' other veterans on the court and the towering centre acknowledged leadership responsibilities must be picked up elsewhere with big names out of commission.

"We've got to step up. Everybody, as a team. We've got to step up, there's no excuse. We are professionals, we know how to play basketball, so we just got to come together and step up," said McGee.

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