The New York Knicks appear to catch a break Friday night when they are unlikely to have to deal with LeBron James when they visit the Los Angeles Lakers in a game pairing teams that have struggled of late.
James suffered a strained left groin in the Lakers' win at Golden State on Christmas Day and has missed the last four games, including Wednesday's 107-100 home loss to Oklahoma City.
The loss was the Lakers' third in the four games without James, who had played the team's first 34 games as well as all 82 for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season.
James' availability is being determined on a day-to-day basis, but he almost surely will not return for the New York game on Friday.
The Lakers' injury situation went from bad to worse when Kyle Kuzma underwent an MRI on his ailing back Thursday after sitting out Wednesday's game. The Lakers listed him as questionable to face the Knicks (9-29) because of a lower back contusion.
The Lakers (21-17) definitely will go without Rajon Rondo, who could miss the entire month of January with a thumb injury.
"It makes it tough," Lakers forward Brandon Ingram told reporters of the injury situation after the loss to the Thunder. "We have a lot of guys out and we just try to figure out different ways to attack the paint. On the defensive end, just try to make small adjustments so that we can be effective in each part of the game."
If there's a positive for the Lakers, it's that it will be the lowly Knicks visiting on Friday.
New York has played the entire season without star big man Kristaps Porzingis, and having lost eight in a row, are one of only a handful of NBA teams already truly out of playoff contention.
Coincidentally, getting production out of their big men has been the least of the Knicks' problems of late.
Luke Kornet, who had started one game previously in his NBA career, has gotten the call in the last three and put up big numbers, averaging 18.7 points while shooting 51 percent from the field overall and 63 percent on 3-pointers.
Kornet has been so good, Knicks coach David Fizdale has elected to bring arguably his best player, Enes Kanter, off the bench.
That did not go well for two games, during which Kanter totaled just eight points and wondered aloud why he'd been demoted. But he responded in Monday's loss at Denver with 17 points and 12 rebounds in 20 minutes.
"The only thing I learned from my career, you have to stay together," Kanter expressed to reporters recently. "You cannot fall apart. You need that one, two, three guys to bring the positive energy in the locker room. If you're losing, everybody is shaking their head, everybody is depressed. You need that guy to bring that positive energy, keep that energy up, make people laugh."
The meeting will be the first of the season between the Knicks and Lakers. James' one and only trip to New York is scheduled for March 17.
Updated January 3, 2019