James, who missed his second straight game Thursday against the Utah Jazz, returned to Los Angeles earlier this week to continue his injury rehabilitation.
The Lakers also are hoping for the return of star forward Anthony Davis, who is progressing toward being a game-time decision for Friday, sources told Wojnarowski. Davis has not played since Feb. 16 because of a right midfoot sprain.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said that James and Davis were "progressing well" during his pregame comments ahead of Thursday night's 122-109 loss to the Jazz. Vogel added that Davis had an on-court workout Thursday in Salt Lake City.
"We do feel like we're gonna get them back at some point, and we have to stay in the fight, and we have to give ourselves a chance," Vogel said after Thursday's game. "If we're able to get into the play-in game at full strength, we know we got a shot. So this would have been a big win for us to help with the cause there. We fell short. Tomorrow's even bigger with the head-to-head obviously with the Pelicans. Hopefully we can get that one."
The returns of James, the NBA's leading scorer, and Davis would be a major lift to a struggling Los Angeles team competing for the final postseason spot in the Western Conference.
Despite being tied on records, the Lakers (31-45) are behind the Spurs (31-45) for 10th place in the West because the Spurs own the tiebreaker of better conference record. L.A. is two games behind the ninth-place Pelicans (33-43).
"I mean, it's self-explanatory. Big game for us," Russell Westbrook said of Friday's game against New Orleans. "We know that. They know that. Our job is to make sure we show up and be ready to play regardless of who is playing and who's not."
James, 37, is averaging 30.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 55 games this season. The four-time league MVP holds a slim lead over Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo (30.1) and Philadelphia's Joel Embiid (30.0) for the NBA's highest scoring average.