Bronny James (left knee swelling) out Sunday's California Classic game, expected to play Wednesday's finale


Bronny James made his professional debut on Saturday as the Los Angeles Lakers faced the Sacramento Kings at the California Classic, a pre-Vegas Summer League showcase, but with his new team playing a back-to-back on Sunday, James will sit out against the Golden State Warriors. He is dealing with some trace swelling in his left knee, and the Lakers are exercising caution with their second-round pick. He is expected to return Wednesday, when the Lakers face the Miami Heat in their final California Classic game, according to Lakers summer league coach Dane Johnson.

“I said at the beginning it’s just day to day,” Johnson said. “We are being precautionary about it. The plan is for him to play the last game, hopefully, but we are going to take it precautionary for right now and take it step by step.”

James, the eldest son of Lakers star LeBron James, had an uneven debut on Saturday in a loss against the Kings. Though he flashed some of the defensive upside that made him a compelling prospect in the first place, his offense showed that it still needs a lot of work. James shot 2-of-9 from the field, and struggled especially to score outside of the paint. His path to success in the NBA is going to come on the 3-and-D track, so improving as a distance shooter will be among his main priorities this season.

Summer League is an opportunity to do that, but with so little time between it and the draft, there’s only so much work a player can do to improve before the games begin. In truth, the value of Summer League from the team side is the chance it provides younger players to prove how how they fit in a team’s system and mesh alongside other prospects. The outcomes of the games themselves don’t matter, so teams are typically cautious when it comes to injuries.

That’s what the Lakers are doing with James, who will likely be brought along slowly as a second-round pick that is expected to spend much of the season with the G-League’s South Bay Lakers. The Lakers have a strong track record of developing talent at the G-League level, so his time there should prove beneficial. As badly as fans may want to see him now, the Lakers will only put him in positions to succeed at least early on. That’s going to mean caution when it comes to injuries like this, so James is sidelined for the time being.

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