LeBron James prepares to push Lakers ‘to make the playoffs’

SALT LAKE CITY — Twenty years into his heralded time within the NBA, LeBron James did not mince phrases when requested in regards to the problem forward for the Los Angeles Lakers with a purpose to safe a postseason spot.

“It’s 23 of the most important games of my career, for a regular season,” James mentioned Sunday earlier than enjoying in a record-tying nineteenth All-Star Game. “It’s the type of mindset that I have, and I hope the guys will have, coming back off the break.”

After 4 NBA championships, 10 journeys to the Finals and private achievements galore, together with his latest ascension as league’s all-time main scorer, placing such an emphasis on this late stretch might come off as hyperbole.

James defined his stance, revealing that the urgency did not begin over the All-Star break however on the finish of final season, when Los Angeles didn’t qualify for the postseason — simply the fourth time in his first 19 seasons that his group did not make it there.

“I want to make a push to make the playoffs,” James mentioned. “I don’t want to see myself not being part of the postseason for two years straight. It’s just not part of my DNA. We’re sitting up here talking about the [scoring] record and things of that nature, and that’s all cool, but I’m more passionate about trying to make the postseason and give ourselves a chance to compete for another Larry O’Brien Trophy. That’s just who I am. That’s what I’m cut from.”

And if the Lakers can qualify for the postseason, then what?

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“I’ve always been confident in any club that I’ve been on once we got into the playoffs that we can compete with anyone, and I feel no different now,” James mentioned. “With the roster the way we’re shaped up right now, if we can finish off this regular season on the right foot, then we can compete versus anyone in the Western Conference, if not the whole league. … If we can punch our ticket, we can compete versus anyone.”

James, 38, is having fun with a robust particular person season, averaging 30 factors on 50.8% capturing, 8.4 rebounds and seven.0 assists. But Los Angeles has been inconsistent, taking a 27-32 report into the break and sitting thirteenth within the Western Conference — two video games out of the ultimate play-in spot and 3½ video games out of the sixth seed, which might assure the Lakers a first-round berth.

On Sunday, James completed with 13 factors, 4 assists and a rebound in 14 minutes. Team Giannis outlasted Team LeBron 184-175.

James has missed 14 video games up to now this season, together with a latest three-game stretch due to left foot and ankle plain, however he plans on being on the courtroom as a lot as attainable for the playoff pursuit.

“I hope I can figure out a way to just make sure that I’m available on the floor every single night for these 23 games to give us a chance,” James mentioned, talking to reporters for the primary time all weekend after being excused Saturday for private causes. “Give our group a chance to be able to compete every night and give ourselves a chance to win every night so we can give ourselves a chance to get into the postseason.”

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James mentioned the 4 days off his left foot because the Lakers’ 120-102 win over the New Orleans Pelicans earlier than the break “has helped, not having to stress it.” He vowed to “not go too crazy” within the All-Star Game so he shall be as wholesome as will be for the Lakers’ subsequent recreation, on Thursday in opposition to the Golden State Warriors, who’re 2½ video games forward of L.A. within the standings.

James’ night time on the All-Star Game ended at halftime due to a proper hand contusion, in response to the Lakers. James hit his hand on the rim within the first half. The hand harm just isn’t thought of critical, and the plan was to restrict James’ minutes within the second half regardless. He completed with 13 factors on 6-for-11 capturing and 4 assists.

“The most important thing for me right now is to maintain my health and be available to my teammates after this break, because we have to make a strong push if we want to do anything special,” he mentioned.

The Lakers regarded fairly particular within the Pelicans recreation, with James becoming a member of Los Angeles’ 5 new faces — D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Mo Bamba and Davon Reed — for the primary time. The Lakers clicked from the opening tip and gave a glimpse of what their new group will be able to.

“I love what we were able to accomplish the other day,” James mentioned. “The worst thing for us is that we had to go on a break. I would have loved if we could have played Friday and got a couple of games under our belt, because it’s the first time our whole group was together from top to bottom.

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“But it’s what it’s. We all reap the benefits of it. We all reap the benefits of the remaining.”

Because it will be go time soon enough.

“It’s going to take a variety of dedication, which is OK,” James said. “That’s what it ought to be about. We’re professionals. What else do we’ve got to do? Make certain the household is sweet while you depart the home. You have folks serving to you round the home. Y’all good? Let’s decide to this. Let’s decide to this and go from there.”