Lakers star LeBron James likely to return vs. Knicks on Tuesday

LeBron James will likely return for Tuesday's game against the New York Knicks as his injured right ankle has been pain-free after several days off, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said James was a full participant in practice Monday but did not officially reveal his status for Tuesday's game.

"We did some drill work. We did some contrived scrimmages and we did a short, full scrimmage," Vogel said when asked what Monday's practice entailed. "And he did all of it."

James missed six weeks due to a high right ankle sprain before a two-game return against Toronto and Sacramento. He then missed the next four games in an attempt to rest the ankle.

James visited an ankle specialist last week, sources told ESPN, and has made considerable improvement in his on-court workouts without experiencing the "sharp pain" he reported in the losses to the Kings and Raptors. He previously had difficulty making hard cuts and elevating, sources told Wojnarowski.

Lakers center Marc Gasol, quite coyly, downplayed James' activity as much as possible. "He's around. He's been doing basketball stuff," Gasol said after Monday's practice. "He was shooting the ball a couple times today."

The Lakers listed James as out for Tuesday's game in a status report released Monday evening. However, the last two times James came back from extended absences because of injury -- returning from a groin injury in January 2019 and the ankle sprain earlier this season -- the Lakers similarly listed James as out, only to upgrade his status to questionable on gameday morning before he eventually appeared in the starting lineup.

Los Angeles is No. 7 in the Western Conference -- a full game behind No. 6 Portland -- with home back-to-back games against the Knicks and Houston Rockets and road back-to-back games against the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans remaining. The Lakers will raise their 2020 championship banner on the night of the Rockets game, with approximately 3,000 fans expected in attendance

Because the Blazers own the series tiebreaker after a win against the Lakers last week, L.A. needs to go 4-0 with the Blazers splitting their last four games in order to avoid the play-in tournament.

The Lakers are 28-15 when James plays this season and 10-15 when he doesn't.