LeBron James, De’Aaron Fox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Injury Updates and NBA Playoff Races
Monday saw breaking injury news in the NBA that could impact the Western Conference playoff race as the Kings move closer to their first postseason bid since 2006 amid mounting excitement in Sacramento.
Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox is doubtful for Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with left wrist pain. Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – a first-time All-Star like Fox – will be out again after missing Sunday’s 124-115 loss to the Kings with a stomach strain and right ankle pain.
Elsewhere in the West, there was bigger news as The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is likely to be out for an extended period with a right foot injury. James reportedly suffered the injury in Sunday’s win against the Dallas Mavericks and is expected to be out for “several weeks.”
James was still seeking medical opinions Monday, sources told Charania, but any prolonged absence could put the Lakers out of the playoff race. The Athletic noted that there are only six weeks left in the regular season and “several weeks could mean all or most of that time frame.”
The Lakers (29-32) are 12th in the West with 21 games remaining, one game behind the New Orleans Pelicans for last play-in berth. They’re 5-9 without James this season. Los Angeles aimed to overhaul several teams to secure a top six seed in the Western Conference after D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt joined after the close, but their odds won’t be the same without James.
The Denver Nuggets (42-19) have built a five-game lead in the west. The Memphis Grizzlies (36-23) are five games behind going into the game against the Lakers on Tuesday.
The Kings (35-25) are third as they attempt to end their 16-year playoff drought. They’ve won three in a row and six of eight as they try to wrap up a perfect three-game road trip with another win over Oklahoma City Tuesday at the Paycom Center.
Sacramento has a three-game lead over the No. 4 Phoenix Suns, a 3-1/2 game lead over the No. 5 Los Angeles Clippers, and a four-game lead over the No. 6 Mavericks. The Kings will play 1 in the Golden on Friday Center open a four-game homestand against the Clippers before taking on the Minnesota Timberwolves, Pelicans and New York Knicks.
The Golden State Warriors (31-30) are seventh in the West, followed by the Utah Jazz (31-31), Timberwolves (31-32) and Pelicans (30-31) with the Portland Trail Blazers (29-31), Lakers and Donner compete for a place in the play-in.
Fox’s status is being closely monitored as he has been one of the hottest players in the league and a driving force behind Sacramento’s rise. Fox has seven consecutive 30-point games, a Sacramento-era franchise record. He is second in the league when it comes to goals at this stretch, averaging 34.4 points on 57.9% shooting.
There are also other injuries that could affect the playoff race in the West. Steven Adams (knee) is expected to miss at least five more games for the Grizzlies and there is no schedule yet for Zion Williamson (hamstring) to return for the Pelicans. Karl-Anthony Towns (Wade) remains out for the Timberwolves but could reportedly be back for the last 10-15 games.
The Mavericks expect Maxi Kleber (hamstring) to return in the coming days and consider him a possible player for Tuesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. The Warriors said Stephen Curry (leg) will be re-evaluated later this week but he will not play against the Blazers on Tuesday, who are missing Jusuf Nurkic (calf) and Anfernee Simons (ankle). The Jazz will miss Jordan Clarkson (thumb) and Collin Sexton (hamstring) when they play the San Antonio Spurs.
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