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LeBron James returns to court Friday against Celtics from abdominal strain

Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 19: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up before a game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on November 19, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

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LeBron James is back.

After missing eight games with an abdominal strain, LeBron James will make his return Friday night against the Boston Celtics, the team announced.

The Lakers went 3-5 while LeBron recovered, and a couple of overtime wins made the record look better than the reality — the Lakers have a -12.7 net rating over their last seven games (29th in the league over that stretch). Without LeBron as a secondary playmaker, the Lakers’ halfcourt offense has been a disaster. This season when LeBron is off the court, the Lakers have an 88.5 offensive rating in halfcourt settings, which would be bottom 10 in the league (stats via Cleaning the Glass).

On the season, the Lakers have outscored opponents by 3.4 points per 100 possessions when LeBron is on the court and been outscored by 5.3 per 100 when he is out.

Put simply: The Lakers needed him back.

Los Angeles is 8-8 but has played the second softest schedule in the league so far, and that is about to change in the coming weeks.