The Los Angeles Lakers are in a freefall since LeBron James fell to a severe groin injury a couple of weeks ago. Since he left the Lakers game against the Golden State Warriors (a game the Lakers ended up winning), Los Angeles has only won one of their four games without their star forward. While they beat the Sacramento Kings, they also lost to the Kings as well as the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Lakers struggle without LeBron

Losing three of four games is rough but not unsurmountable. Honestly, the Los Angeles Lakers could overcome this quickly when LeBron James returns. However, the race in the Western Conference is so close, that the Lakers are digging themselves into a hole. Los Angeles was in fourth place in the West before LeBron's injury. They are now in eighth, two games ahead of the Kings on the playoff bubble.

To make things slightly more optimistic, the Los Angeles Lakers next four games are against the New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons. The Knicks is a game the Lakers can win without LeBron James. The Timberwolves and Mavericks are both below Los Angeles in the rankings while the Pistons are the bubble team in the East.

When will LeBron James return for the Lakers?

LeBron James will not travel with the Los Angeles Lakers over the next week.

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That will put him at missing seven games with the Lakers. At that time, Los Angeles will reevaluate him and the hope is that he can return for the Detroit Pistons game on January 9.

The Lakers said that they are confident in their team with LeBron James on the sidelines and wanted him to get back to full strength before rushing him back. They know that bringing him back too soon could cause significant problems throughout the season.

However, one inside source claimed that LeBron missing too many games could end the Lakers playoff hopes this year.

As a result, if the Lakers lose two of their next three games -- against teams that have worse records than they do -- LeBron will have to get back on the court and help.

The hope is that he will be recovered. The Pistons game will be televised nationally on ESPN, so that would be a perfect time for LeBron James to make his huge return from injury.

LeBron James has never suffered a severe injury like this to his groin before. While it won't require surgery, it is still a painful one and the Los Angeles Lakers hope that next week's evaluation will have him ready to return to help them push back up the West rankings.

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