LeBron James isn’t oblivious to the significance of the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers’ campaign.
“It’s 23 of the most important games of my career, for regular season,” he told reporters ahead of Sunday’s All-Star Game, courtesy of Arash Markazi of The Sporting Tribune. “That’s the type of mindset that I have and I hope the guys will have coming out of the break.”
Los Angeles will begin the de facto second half of the campaign two games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the conference’s final play-in seed. An automatic first-round berth isn’t out of the question, either, as Los Angeles trails the sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks by just 3.5 games.
The club’s front office also overhauled the roster at the Feb. 9 trade deadline, bringing in former Laker D’Angelo Russell as well as Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Mo Bamba, and Davon Reed while sending out Russell Westbrook, Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Damian Jones, and Juan Toscano-Anderson. With their new additions in the lineup, Los Angeles is 2-1, picking up wins over the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans, two sides occupying play-in spots.
For James, specifically, the 38-year-old wants to avoid failing to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The NBA’s new all-time scoring leader hasn’t been left out of the run-up to the Finals in back-to-back years since his second professional campaign in 2004-05 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Since then, he’s made the playoffs in 15 of his last 17 seasons, including a stretch of eight consecutive trips to the Finals from 2011-18.
“Not being part of the postseason for two years straight, that’s not in my DNA,” he said, according to Showtime Sports’ Rachel Nichols.
Los Angeles’ first four games coming out of the break are a home rematch against the Warriors followed by a road trip with matchups against the Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, and Thunder.
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