Fresh from wins over the Dallas Mavericks and most recently the Detroit Pistons, the Lakers are seeking three successive triumphs for the first time since a four-game streak that ended on December 5.
Since then, the Lakers have gone 8-10 to slip down the Western Conference rankings – with five of those losses coming since LeBron got hurt.
But after back-to-back wins, the Lakers are on an upward curve and Kyle Kuzma has received major praise after he responded to a tough night against the Mavs with 41 points against Detroit.
Luke Walton will need Kuzma to come up big again when they face the Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena tonight (7pm PST/3am UK time) with Utah just two games behind them in the standings.
And that’s because the Lakers are once again without centrepiece LeBron, who was evaluated by the Lakers’ medical team on Thursday who determined he is ready to step up his recovery but not yet fit enough to return to the court.
The four-time MVP has so far done little basketball activity other than standstill shooting, per ESPN.
In an official statement, the Lakers said: “LeBron James was evaluated by team medical staff and physicians today.
“The healing of James’ groin injury is progressing and James has been cleared to increase on-court functional basketball movements. A further update will be provided on January 16.”
LeBron has not flown with the Lakers team to Utah and his medical update means the 34-year-old is unlikely to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls.
The next game LeBron will hope to return for will be next Thursday’s game at Oklahoma City, 6.30pm (Friday, 2.30am UK).
Walton, meanwhile, believes the capabilities of his team – who sit No 8 in the West as it stands – are largely unknown.
He said recently: “We know that when we’re at our best, we’re a really good team. We’re a team that can hang our hat on playing defense and getting stops.
“We’re good when we get out and run. LeBron James is really good. And there’s still a ton of unknown.
“Really, there’s probably more unknown than there is known, just because of the amount of injuries we’ve gone through and the different line-ups.
“Even with the suspensions of trying to get the continuity of who plays, what match-ups are playing well together.
“I think it’s exciting that we’re where we’re at and we still have so much room to grow. I would have said we are what we’re supposed to be and I’m very pleased with where we’re at right now.
“I think our record is probably a little better than I thought it would have been earlier, pre-LeBron getting hurt. And now, where it’s at, we’ve got some work to do and we know that.
“To me that’s exciting, that opportunity of, ‘Hey, we’re in this dogfight and we’ve had great moments and we’ve had awful moments.’
“Like we’ve said, we’ve got a lot to learn about ourselves still and that we’ve got a lot of room for growth and I think our team will accept that challenge and opportunity and we’ll have a good end of the season.”