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ATLANTA — Lakers star LeBron James flew back to Los Angeles on Saturday for treatment on his ailing left knee and will not be with the team for the end of its six-game road trip against the Hawks on Sunday, according to Lakers coach Frank Vogel.
James underwent an MRI that revealed “general swelling,” Vogel said. Sunday is the third straight game that James, 37, has missed because of the knee.
“As long as the swelling is there, he’s going to be out and we’ll get him back as soon as we can,” Vogel said.
Prior to the knee soreness and swelling, which Vogel said was not caused by a specific play but rather something James woke up feeling in Philadelphia on Thursday, James had been on one of the hottest offensive stretches of his career. He has scored 25 points or more in 18 straight games, the first 17 of those with Anthony Davis out with a left knee injury.
Vogel said James could play in the Lakers’ first home game after the trip against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday.
“Just going to keep an eye on it day to day,” Vogel said.
In his 19th season, James is averaging 29.1 points per game, tied for second in the league, in 36.6 minutes per game, which ranks fourth.
Vogel was asked if James’ knee injury has him thinking about how he will manage the veteran’s workload when he returns.
“I think about it every day,” Vogel said. “We’re always mindful of the load that he’s carrying, in constant communication with him and the medical team. And in terms of what we do going forward with the knee and where he’s at, it’s really a heavy lean on the medical staff and [trainer] Mike Mancias and what they feel is best. It’s really not a head-coach thing as much as it is relying on the medical team.”
The Lakers (24-26) are ninth in the Western Conference. They are 5-9 in games without James entering Sunday.
Davis will start Sunday after missing one game with right wrist soreness. He had the wrist taped during pregame warm-ups.
Russell Westbrook also is expected to play with a sore right knee, while guard Kendrick Nunn is out with a right knee bone bruise and guard Malik Monk was listed as probable after missing one game with soreness in his left groin.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.