Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, in New York. The Nets won115-110. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James is inching closer to his return from a groin injury that has sidelined him since Christmas Day.

As the team announced Wednesday, James has been cleared to return to practice next week after the Lakers’ medical staff and physicians evaluated him.

There’s been a lot of secrecy around James’ actual timetable to return from his injury. 

The Lakers initially announced the four-time NBA MVP would be day-to-day after an MRI revealed a strained left groin. He even tweeted that he “dodged a bullet” upon receiving his diagnosis. 

James’ agent, Rich Paul, told The Athletic’s Sam Amick on Wednesday the “best-case scenario was three weeks, the worst-case was six weeks, and we’re right on schedule.”

Doctors emphasized that James re-injuring his groin would be worse than the original injury, Paul said, which explains why the 34-year-old won’t return until he’s 100 percent. 

The three-week mark passed Tuesday, so it appears James’ comeback will be closer to the six-week timetable. That would put him on track to return on or around Feb. 5 against the Indiana Pacers

The Lakers have lost seven of their past 11 games without James in the lineup. They are tied with the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a 24-21 record. 

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