LeBron James
LeBron James has missed 14 games due to a groin injury sustained on Christmas Day. In this picture, James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers in action against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., Dec. 16, 2018. Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Lebron James is set to miss his 15th straight game when the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday at the Staples Center owing to the groin injury he sustained on Christmas Day during the win over the Golden State Warriors.

The small forward was initially expected to return in three weeks, but the injury has taken longer to heal and neither the player nor the team want to rush his return in the fear of aggravating it in the long run.

The Lakers have struggled without James having dropped from fourth in the Western Conference when he was last fit to ninth after going on a 5-9 run. Making the playoffs will be the least of their targets this season after signing the three-time champion on a four-year deal in the summer.

James could return for the game against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, but until Wednesday, he had not taken part in a full-contact training session. Head coach Luke Walton is not keen to rush the injured players back, but revealed that the forward is desperate to be back on court.

Rajon Rondo also suffered an injury to his left ring finger during the game against the Warriors on Christmas Day and has missed the last 14 games after undergoing a minor surgery. The veteran point guard, however, is further ahead in his rehabilitation and is likely to be part of the Lakers squad for the game against the Suns with the coach revealing that he will be a game-time decision on Thursday.

"He's not out yet for Sunday," Walton said of James, as quoted on ESPN. "I guess that puts it in play. With him and Rondo, it's going to be, again, how he's feeling tomorrow morning and take it from there and see how he's doing the next day after that and the next day.”

"When they feel ready to play, then they'll play,” the Lakers coach added making sure to indicate that they will not be rushed back from injury just to arrest their drop in the Western Conference.

Rondo revealed that despite doing the 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 scrimmages in the past few days he has not able to test his hand in game like situations as there has been minimal contact. That indicates that he is unlikely to get too many minutes if he returns to the court against the Timberwolves.

“I haven't had much contact. It's like I have a red jersey or a quarterback jersey on out here. So it will be different in the game,” Rondo said. "Nobody's really touched me. Except for Lance [Stephenson], he's hacked me a couple times, but that's just my jersey and my shoulder."

The Lakers point guard also does not seem too worried about his team missing out on a place in the post-season playoffs. They have 34 games remaining in the regular season and Rondo is certain that once James returns they will get back into the playoff positions.

"Well, we've got LeBron, so ... I don't know the last time he missed the playoffs," the former Boston Celtics point guard added.