That’s according to Tracy McGrady, who thinks the Lakers’ post-season prospects are at serious risk at the moment.
LeBron has missed the franchise’s last 17 games since getting hurt on Christmas Day, with the Lakers going 6-11 in his absence.
That record has seen Luke Walton’s team drop out of the playoff picture, going down to ninth in the Western Conference having been sat in fourth when LeBron was last on the court.
The Lakers are two games behind Staples Center co-habitants the Clippers in the standings as they seek their first return to the playoffs since 2012-13.
They are also looking to avenge their hallway series defeat to their Los Angeles rivals in late December, when the Clippers won 118-107 on their shared hardwood.
LeBron – who is enduring the longest spell out of his entire career – has been back in full practice since last weekend and has been taking part in contact drills since then.
The 34-year-old forward is officially listed as doubtful against the Clippers, with Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart also battling to be involved due to hip and knee problems.
But McGrady insists the Lakers need their star talent available.
Former Houston Rockets star McGrady told The Jump on ESPN: “Bron needs to get back and he needs to get back ASAP [as soon as possible].
“What I’m a little nervous about in his return is that he’s 34, lot of miles on his body.
“This is the most games he’s missed in his career.
“I’m afraid he’s going to come back and he’s going to have to do too much and that could possibly lead to more injuries.
“Because he’s going to have to carry this team and carry this load in order for this team to get to the playoffs.
“The teams ahead of them are playing pretty good basketball.
“Utah’s schedule, San Antonio, the Clippers are playing pretty good.
“He’s gotta come back and come back tonight and do what LeBron James does.”
Lakers beat writer Tania Ganguli – who reports for the Los Angeles Times – said on Twitter ahead of tonight’s match-up: “Before his injury, LeBron typically got to the Staples around 4:30 for home games.
“After the injury, for home games, he’d typically arrive very close to game time.
“Tuesday and today (Clippers home game), much earlier. He’ll get some work in pregame and see if he can play.”
If he does not return tonight, it is expected LeBron will be in contention for the Lakers’ third showdown of the season with the Golden State Warriors – the same team he picked up his injury against – on Saturday night (5.30pm PST/Sunday 1.30am UK).