LeBron James is now expected to play Tuesday night against the New York Knicks, marking his return to the Madison Square Garden in three years.
James is listed as questionable but will play, according to ESPN’s Lakers beat writer Dave McMenamin, after sitting out Monday night’s 121-104 loss in Brooklyn with left foot soreness.
It is highly unlikely that James will score 117 points to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time league scoring record. But he’s on the verge of breaking into the top five of the NBA’s all-time assists leaders.
James (10,327) is seven assists away from no. 5, former Knicks point guard Mark Jackson (10,334) and eight behind no. 4 Steve Nash (10,335).
James is averaging 7.1 assists this season and has logged 11 and 8 over his last two games.
New York coach Tom Thibodeau, who spent time with James in the Team USA as an assistant coach, mused about the 38-year-old superstar’s longevity.
“Whatever rule changes come, he adapts to those. And that’s what makes him who he is,” Thibodeau said after Monday’s practice. “He grew up, and I think all those guys benefited from watching Michael [Jordan]. But not just Michael, he’s watched all the greats.
“To me, there’s a lot of Michael in him, and there’s a lot of Magic [Johnson] in him … and there’s him. You hate to compare players to each other and all that, and I still don’t think you’re gonna be able to truly measure him until he’s done. But still to be doing it at this age and the way he’s taken care of himself, that’s a remarkable achievement.”
James is investing millions of dollars in taking care of his body.
In his 20th season, he’s still among the league’s top players averaging close to a triple-double (30.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 7.1 assists while shooting 50.7 percent from the field).
Tuesday night’s visit will be James’ first game at Madison Square Garden since racking up 21 points, 6 rebounds, five assists, and five steals in a 100-92 Lakers win on Jan. 22, 2020.
The Lakers superstar missed the 2020 trip with a groin injury while he served a one-game suspension last season for “recklessly hitting Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart in the face and initiating an on-court altercation.”
James had some of the greatest moments of his career at the world’s famous arena, like when he dropped a 32-point triple-double in his first win at Madison Square Garden as a member of the Miami Heat after shunning the Knicks in the 2010 free agency.
But he also experienced lows, like when former Knicks forward Mario Hezonja blocked James’ shot at the buzzer for a thrilling 124-123 Knicks victory in 2019.
As history beckons, will James make a triumphant return, or will the Knicks foil him on a potentially historic night.
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