Los Angeles star LeBron James was set to return from the longest injury absence of his NBA career on Friday when the Lakers hosted the Sacramento Kings.
James, sidelined since suffering a high ankle sprain on March 20, was designated as available for the game less than two hours before tip-off at Staples Center.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel offered few details of James's recent rehab progress, but was confident his superstar was ready.
"I'm not going to disclose the detailed nature of his work other than that he's been going really hard," Vogel said.
The four-time NBA Most Valuable Player gave his right ankle a final test in pre-game warm-ups.
Vogel said LeBron wouldn't be limited to a specific number of minutes, unlike teammate Anthony Davis who was on a minutes restriction when he returned from a 30-game absence with a calf injury last week.
The 36-year-old James, who won his fourth NBA title with the Lakers last year, has seen the team go 8-13 this season when he is sidelined, including defeats in four of its past five games.
The Lakers went into Friday's contest at 36-26, fifth in the Western Conference, one game ahead of Dallas and two in front of Portland.
James is averaging 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists a game in 41 appearances for the Lakers this season.
"We're excited to have him back," said Vogel, who admitted that the team's 10 remaining regular season games don't offer much time for the Lakers to rebuild their championship chemistry after injuries to Davis, James and others.
He said it would be a "massive adjustment period" not only for the returning players but also for those whose roles had expanded in the stars' absence.
"We've just got to compete through it," Vogel said. "Come playoff time we'll be ready."
Los Angeles, United States | AFP