Lakers visit Kings without King James

December 27, 2018

SACRAMENTO -- The Los Angeles Lakers revert to life without LeBron James when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night.

James suffered a strained groin during the Lakers' impressive 127-101 road win over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA's Christmas Day showcase game.

An MRI on Wednesday showed no structural damage, and the Lakers formally labeled their star day-to-day.

They did so as James was boarding a flight back to Los Angeles, after his teammates had headed north to Sacramento for Thursday's game. He will not play.

"I take a lot of pride in (staying healthy)," James insisted to reporters after the game. "It's more than anything being available to my teammates, to my coaching staff -- that is something I take more personal than anything. Hopefully it is not a long thing and I can get back on the floor as soon as possible."

James has not been ruled out of Friday's home game against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Kings visit Los Angeles for a rematch Sunday.

The Lakers will take the court in Sacramento with a 20-14 record. They didn't win their 20th game last season until Feb. 2 while James played for Cleveland.

James' absence will be his first of the season. He played all 82 games for the first time in his career last season.

At age 33, James ranks among the Top 10 in the NBA in minutes played (1,178) this season.

James had 25 points in 31 minutes when the Lakers won 101-86 in an earlier trip to Sacramento last month. Rajon Rondo had six points, seven assists, two steals and a game-best plus-17 plus/minus in a matchup with his old team.

Rondo led the league in assists at 11.7 per game to go with 11.9 points in his one season in Sacramento in 2016.

He hasn't had more than six points or seven assists in any of his five returns since.

Rondo played a key role in Wednesday's win at Golden State, recording 15 points and 10 assists.

He made six of his 11 shots as the Lakers connected on 55.3 percent from the field and 13 of 33 on 3-pointers in the one-sided win.

The Kings will be playing their second game in two nights, having visited the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

Sacramento gave playing time to all 13 players, none for more than 30 minutes, in a 127-118 loss than ended a two-game winning streak.

The Kings are three games into a nine-game stretch in which they don't leave the state of California. They cross the state line just once -- to Phoenix -- between Dec. 17 and Jan. 17.

While Kings fans will be denied a second chance to see James this season, star guard De'Aaron Fox said he believes the club gave the faithful a bit of a Christmas present in 122-117 victory over New Orleans in their most recent home game Sunday.

"These fans do a great job of coming out each and every night and supporting us," he gushed after the win. "We owe them something special, man, and our main goal is to try to get to the playoffs. They get loud and crazy, and I just can't wait to see how much more crazy they can get."