LeBron James sidelined: What his foot injury means for the Los Angeles Lakers' play-in push

The Los Angeles Lakers will reevaluate LeBron James in three weeks following an ankle injury. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Los Angeles Lakers still reach the play-in tournament with LeBron James sidelined by a tendon injury in his right foot?

The Lakers announced Thursday that James will be reevaluated in about three weeks after he missed their past two games because of the injury. That timeline pins James' return late in March at best, with the end of the regular season looming.

With 19 games left to play, the Lakers are 11th in the Western Conference, one game behind the New Orleans Pelicans for the final play-in spot.

James' injury, which came during a promising comeback road win over the Dallas Mavericks, likely ends realistic hopes of avoiding the play-in by climbing all the way to the sixth seed.

Yet that doesn't mean we won't see the Lakers in the playoffs at all. Having reinforced their roster at the trade deadline, can the Lakers move up into the play-in -- or at least stay in contention for it -- while James heals?

Let's consider the cases for optimism and pessimism about their chances.