There was breaking injury news in the NBA on Monday that could impact the Western Conference playoff race as the Kings close in on their first postseason bid since 2006 amid growing excitement in Sacramento.
Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox is questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder due to left wrist soreness. 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 an abdominal strain and right ankle soreness.
There was bigger news elsewhere in the West when The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is expected to miss an extended period of time with a right foot injury. James reportedly suffered the injury in Sunday’s win over the Dallas Mavericks and is expected to be out “multiple weeks.”
James was still seeking medical opinions Monday, sources told Charania, but any extended absence could knock the Lakers out of the playoff race. The Athletic noted there are only six weeks remaining in the regular season and “multiple 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 the final play-in spot. They are 5-9 without James this season. Los Angeles intended to overtake several teams to secure one of the top six seeds in the Western Conference following the trade deadline additions of D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, but their chances won’t be the same without James.
The Denver Nuggets (42-19) have opened up a five-game lead in the West. The Memphis Grizzlies (36-23) are five games back going into Tuesday’s game against the Lakers.
The Kings (35-25) are third as they seek to end their 16-year playoff drought. They have 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 on Tuesday at Paycom Center.
Sacramento has a three-game lead over the No. 4 Phoenix Suns, a 3 ½-game lead over the No. 5 Los Angeles Clippers and a four-game lead over the No. 6 Mavericks. The Kings will open a four-game homestand against the Clippers on Friday at Golden 1 Center before facing 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 Thunder scrapping for a spot in the play-in.
Fox’s status will be monitored closely as he has been one of the hottest players in the league and a driving force behind Sacramento’s surge. Fox has seven consecutive 30-point games, a Sacramento-era franchise record. He is second in the league in scoring over that stretch, averaging 34.4 points on 57.9% shooting.
There are other injuries that could impact the playoff race in the West as well. Steven Adams (knee) is expected to miss at least five more games for the Grizzlies and there is still no timetable for Zion Williamson (hamstring) to return for the Pelicans. Karl-Anthony Towns (calf) remains out for the Timberwolves, but he reportedly could be back for the final 10 to 15 games.
The Mavericks expect Maxi Kleber (hamstring) to return in the coming days, listing him as questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. The Warriors said Stephen Curry (leg) will be reevaluated later this week, but he won’t play Tuesday against the Blazers, who are missing Jusuf Nurkic (calf) and Anfernee Simons (ankle). The Jazz will be missing Jordan Clarkson (thumb) and Collin Sexton (hamstring) when they play the San Antonio Spurs.
This story was originally published February 27, 2023, 7:14 PM.