That doesn't mean the possible appearance of Rajon Rondo would not be important.
James is expected back soon enough from a groin injury, but with Rondo, the Lakers would have a true point guard on the floor Thursday after Lonzo Ball was lost for at least a month to a sprained ankle Saturday at Houston.
Rondo told reporters after Wednesday's practice that he would be a game-time decision as he recovers from a torn ligament in his right ring finger.
"They're different," the Lakers' Kyle Kuzma said of the team's point guards, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Lonzo gets out on the break, gets ahead of everybody. Rondo is a half-court genius. They're definitely different."
The Lakers tried something of a point-guard-by-committee situation in Monday's game against the Golden State Warriors, finishing with 20 assists. The Warriors finished with 41 and a 130-111 victory, with Klay Thompson setting an NBA record by making his first 10 3-point attempts.
James is getting closer but was considered unavailable for Thursday's game. That pushes a potential return to a Sunday home game against the Phoenix Suns.
James and Rondo last played on Christmas Day at Golden State. The Lakers beat the Warriors 127-101 that day. They are 5-9 since, winning at Dallas and Oklahoma City in that span, but also losing at home to Cleveland.
The Timberwolves have regained some confidence in recent days after back-to-back victories over the Suns. The Wolves won a tight two-point game at Minnesota on Sunday and rolled to a 118-91 victory Tuesday in the desert.
Tuesday's victory included a third-quarter altercation between the Wolves' Gorgui Dieng and the Suns' Devin Booker, with both players being ejected. Afterward, Wolves players appeared amused by the altercation and Dieng even joked about it.
"As a team we're better when we play with the right emotion," Minnesota interim coach Ryan Saunders said, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "So we want to make sure to control our emotions in terms of not letting them become negative, but we were playing tougher with things."
The Wolves are 4-3 under Saunders, who took over after Tom Thibodeau was fired earlier this month. Thibodeau's dismissal came after Minnesota's 108-86 victory over the Lakers on Jan. 6 as the Wolves improved to 2-1 against Los Angeles this season.
Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns has scored at least 20 points in 13 of his last 14 games, averaging 26.1 points over that stretch. He put up 55 points in the two recent games against the Suns. Rookie Josh Okogie is coming off a career-best 21-point game and has averaged 11.7 points in seven games this month.
"Josh has all the tools to become an All-Star," Wolves forward Taj Gibson said in the Star-Tribune.
While James and Ball are expected to be out for the Lakers, Wolves guards Jeff Teague (foot) and Tyus Jones (ankle) are day-to-day, while forward Robert Covington (knee) is out indefinitely.
--Field Level Media