Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James issued a strong statement before playing in his record-tying 19th All-Star Game on February 19. The four-time MVP and four-time Finals MVP said the second half of the season will be “23 of the most important games of my career.”
“It’s 23 of the most important games of my career, for a regular season,” James said. “It’s the type of mindset that I have, and I hope the guys will have, coming back off the break.”
The Lakers are in 13th place in the Western Conference standings. They have to play winning basketball in the second half of the season if they want to make the playoffs. Los Angeles missed the postseason in 2022 and James doesn’t want to miss out on playoff basketball again.
“I want to make a push to make the playoffs,” James said. “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.”
James, 38, is averaging 30.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.0 assists on the season while shooting 50.8% from the field, 31.0% from beyond the arc and 76.2% from the free-throw line. The future Hall of Famer has missed 14 games so far, including a recent three-game stretch due to left foot and ankle pain. James will do everything in his power to play in every game after the All-Star break.
“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 said. “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.”
LeBron James on Playoffs: ‘If We Can Punch Our Ticket, We Can Compete Versus Anyone’
James believes the Lakers can compete with anyone in the NBA if they make the playoffs. The Akron Hammer likes the trades general manager Rob Pelinka made at the trade deadline. Los Angeles acquired D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Mo Bamba and Davon Reed.
“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 said. “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.”
The top six seeds in the conference automatically qualify for the playoffs, while teams 7-10 make the play-in tournament. The Lakers are two games back of the 10th spot and 3.5 games back of the sixth spot.
LeBron James: ‘It’s Going to Take a Lot of Commitment’
James said for the Lakers to make the playoffs, he and his teammates will have to be fully committed to winning.
“It’s going to take a lot of commitment, which is OK,” James said. “That’s what it should be about. We’re professionals. What else do we have to do? Make sure the family is good when you leave the house. You have people helping you around the house. Y’all good? Let’s commit to this. Let’s commit to this and go from there.”
The Lakers will face the Golden State Warriors to open the second half of the season.