- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 21, 2021

Could a high ankle sprain cost LeBron James a chance at winning a fifth MVP award? 

With the Los Angeles Lakers star sidelined indefinitely after suffering the injury on Saturday, James’ odds to earn the honor took a hit — with BetMGM no longer listing James as the favorite to win.

The gambling sportsbook now lists Denver’s Nikola Jokic as a +120 favorite to take home the trophy as James fell to third (+600), also trailing Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. 

The Lakers have not said how much time James could miss, but an extended absence will likely hurt James’ chances. According to Jeff Stots of In Street Clothes, a website dedicated to tracking injuries, a high ankle sprain has typically cost a player an average of 10 games over the last six seasons. For James, that means his return wouldn’t be until April 10. The time missed, however, depends on the severity of James’ injury — meaning he could be out fewer or more games than normal.

In the meantime, Jokic has a chance to strengthen his MVP case — especially if the Lakers start to fall in the standings. Entering Sunday’s games, the Nuggets (25-16) sit two games behind the Lakers (28-14) for the third seed in the Western Conference. Jokic is averaging a career-best 27 points, 11.2 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game, and leads many advanced statistical categories.

This year’s race is particularly heated as Jokic, James and Embiid have all had great seasons. Embiid, like James, is currently hurt and has been sidelined with a hyperextended knee. 

Before getting hurt in Saturday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks, James was averaging 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game. James has not won the MVP since 2012-13.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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