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LeBron James returns to Lakers but doesn't start after month's absence

LeBron James returned to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday after a monthlong injury absence but was held out of the starting lineup.

The Lakers declared James available for their game against the Chicago Bulls after a pregame workout. The NBA's career scoring leader hasn't played since Feb. 26, when he complained of right foot soreness after a win at Dallas.

James has played in a game as a reserve just once previously in his 20-year NBA career, doing it with Cleveland on Dec. 11, 2007.

The 38-year-old James is averaging 29.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists in his fifth season with the Lakers. He surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA's top scorer on Feb. 7, but has played in just three games since that historic night.

James missed 13 games, but the Lakers went 8-5 in his absence and even reached .500 for the first time this season in their most recent game. Los Angeles has won three straight heading into the finale of its five-game homestand against the Bulls.

The Lakers provided few updates on James' condition during his absence, and James kept the details of his recovery firmly under wraps on social media. He also missed five games earlier this season with a strained left adductor, and he has had injury absences in every full season of his time with the Lakers.

But James is looking healthy at a key point for the Lakers, who could finally have their full roster available for the final games of the stretch run. Los Angeles has broken into the playoff picture during James' absence, moving up to eighth in the Western Conference on Friday with its win over Oklahoma City.

While James returned, D'Angelo Russell was ruled out for a second straight game due to a right hip injury. Russell and James have played in only two games together since the Lakers acquired Russell in a trade last month because of injury absences for both players.

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