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What LeBron’s injury means for the young Lakers now

The Los Angeles Lakers got a win on Christmas, and they also got a test: Can they keep heading in the right direction if LeBron James’ strained groin muscle causes him to miss significant time?

“This is unchartered territory, obviously, with this group,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said after his team’s impressive 127-101 win over the Golden State Warriors. “But this is what we’ve been talking about. This is what we try to plan for — not that [James] gets hurt, but being able to play and win and compete when he’s not on the floor.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“That’s a process, and our team is much better than at the start of the season. So, it’ll get a lot more challenging for us if he misses some real time, but I’m also very confident in our group that they’ll continue to step up and battle.”

He was generally in good spirits and wouldn’t rule out playing Thursday at the Sacramento Kings, though the results of an MRI on Wednesday will determine just how plausible that will be. If James is out of the lineup, the Lakers suddenly will face the challenge that the Cleveland Cavaliers could never seem to figure out over the past four seasons: winning without James.5

The Cavs were a miserable 4-23 in games that James missed either for rest or injury over that span — 3-10 in 2014-15, 1-5 in 2015-16 and 0-8 in 2016-17. The only reason it didn’t hurt Cleveland again last season was because James played in all 82 games.

A rough patch with James out could derail the work the Lakers did through their 20-14 start to this season, giving the team the No. 4 spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference standings.

With the Houston Rockets surging (7-1 over their past eight games), a couple of bad weeks — say a 1-7 stretch — could quickly drop L.A. out of the playoff picture, at least temporarily.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

The Lakers have had the misfortune of suspensions to Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram as well as lengthy injuries suffered by Rondo, Ingram and JaVale McGee this season already, and they kept things going. Of course, none of those players matches James’ contributions. None has so much of the offense run through him. None can dictate the team’s effort game to game like James. But some experience in dealing with adversity is better than none.

“We’ve been missing guys all year,” Lakers guard Lonzo Ball said. “Obviously, LeBron’s a really big part of this team. … We have a lot of good guys on this team. We’ve been confident all year. It’s not just one player on this team; we have a good team.