LeBron James Groin Injury: Lakers 'Privately Concerned' Over All-star's Fitness Despite Return

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James, #23 of the LA Lakers and Team LeBron reacts in the second quarter during the NBA All-Star game as part of the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend at Spectrum Center on February 17, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

LeBron James might have returned to action, but concerns over his injury haven't entirely gone away.

The four-time MVP returned on January 31 against the Los Angeles Clippers after missing 17 games with a groin injury he picked against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day.

The absence was the longest of LeBron's career and dealt a major blow to the Lakers' chances of reaching the playoff, as they went 6-11 over the stretch.

However, since the three-time NBA champion returned to the starting line-up, the Lakers have won just two of their five games. While LeBron has averaged 23.2 points, 11 assist and 10.8 rebounds per game since returning from injury, Los Angeles is keeping a close eye on his fitness.

According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, the Lakers "are privately a little concerned about LeBron".

Specifically, Los Angeles is said to be worried about James' mobility since his injury layoff, which is understandable given groin injuries can limit a player's explosiveness and movement.

Speaking after the All-Star Game on Sunday, LeBron played down speculations he was not back to full fitness.

"I feel great. I feel great," he was quoted as saying by NBC Sports.

"I'm looking forward to the second half of the season.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do to get back in this playoff race. That's my only mindset.

"That's the only thing that's going to have my mental space for the next two months, how I can get this team playing the type of level of basketball we were playing before my injury."

Los Angeles returns to action after the All-Star Game break on Thursday with a home game against the Houston Rockets, before a two-game road trip with stops in New Orleans and Memphis.

The Lakers have lost their last two games and are 28-29 for the season, three games behind the Los Angeles Clippers, who currently hold the final playoff berth in the Western Conference.

When they signed LeBron in July, reaching the playoffs was considered the bare minimum for the Lakers this season but their recent slump in form has made it far from a formality.

ESPN analyst Jalen Rose suggested James would have to play at MVP levels between now and April if the Lakers are to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

"LeBron has to be MVP-level dominant and you can point to the team's record before he got injured Christmas Day, but you can also point to the strength of their schedule," Rose told GetUp! On ESPN.

"It was one of the easiest in the game. The remaining part of the year they have the fourth-toughest schedule.

"They can't afford to have any injuries. The Lakers miss Lonzo Ball, they're going to need him to be healthy and performing in the second half if they're going to find a way to make the playoffs."