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James takes part in full-contact drills, injury return nears

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By Agence France-Presse

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James took part in full-contact defensive drills for the first time since he was injured in a Christmas Day game, but won’t be ready to play on Sunday.

“It’s the first time he’s been out there in that part of practice, in that type of movement,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters on Saturday.

Walton said James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, had been working with his own doctors as well as team doctors and training staff as he recovers from a groin injury suffered in the Lakers’ holiday win over the Golden State Warriors.

He said it would be up to the medical staff to decide when James would play, although he won’t suit up when the team faces Phoenix on Sunday, which will mark his 16th game on the sidelines.

“When they clear him, he goes,” Walton said.

The Lakers are 5-10 without James, who in 15 prior seasons had never missed more than 13 games in a campaign.

Walton indicated he had no concerns that the enforced layoff had cost James much in terms of rust.

“He looked good,” Walton said. “He’s still really good at basketball, in case you guys were wondering.”