EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – With a record of 28-29, the Los Angeles Lakers are three games in the playoffs and they have 25 games left in the regular season.
Even harder: They have the toughest remaining schedule in the NBA, according to ESPN Stats & Information forecasts.
So, for LeBron James, it's time to light the post-burners, so to speak.
Celtics goaltender Kyrie Irving told ESPN's Rachel Nichols that her call to apologize to former Cavaliers team-mate LeBron James, who was now in the Lakers, was "necessary" that my life is moving forward. "
"This has been activated," said the Lakers star after Wednesday's training, evoking the intensity of the playoffs, as the team prepared to host the Houston Rockets on Thursday.
James competed in the NBA Finals eight straight times and reached 13 consecutive goals – and in many cases his teams ranked high for much of the season, no doubt about the fact that They would reach the playoffs. And often, James was able to save energy throughout the regular season for what he hoped to be a playoff boost that ended in June.
Now the situation is quite different for a Lakers team that underperformed and struggled with injuries, suspensions, and uneven play in the grueling Western Conference.
"Obviously, we would have liked to be successful when I was out, but we did not do it, so that's where we [are] for now, "said James, who missed 18 games after suffering a groin injury on Dec. 25." I will be a little different a little earlier than I would like to be in previous years. "
The Lakers missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, their longest drought in the playoffs since the season.
"It's the job, it's our goal," said James about the playoffs. "It's been our goal since the beginning of the season and it's still our goal – we are working hard to achieve it."
Meanwhile, James said that he no longer remembered the last time he had had to make such a difficult effort in the regular season at this stage of the year. But it's been a long time.
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Last season, James was involved in any end-of-season race just to make the post-season more than a decade ago, in 2004-2005.
It was at this point that his Cavaliers rose from third place in the Eastern Conference standings between the All-Star break and miss the playoffs because of a break in the competition. 39, equal, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"My level of intensity needs to be [high]Unfortunately for me, because I do not like doing it so early, "James said.
James later added, "I am quite uncomfortable, I like to be uncomfortable, I fall in love with my hurt at ease.C & # 39; is another uncomfortable thing for me and I like it a lot. "
But James is convinced that if the Lakers can reach the playoffs, they can have an impact no matter what team they face.
"Yeah, I mean, if I can get into the playoffs, no matter what team I have, I feel we have a good chance," James said. "Obviously, you want to play a high level in the playoffs and try to ride this wave, we can not wait to see how much we can play and try to play in the playoffs and build on our momentum." to succeed."
There is a delicate balance for the Lakers, though. James has proven his ability to wear teams throughout his career, but at age 34 and with considerable mileage on the legs, it's obvious that the load could be too heavy and cause another injury.
"We know we have the best player in the world on our team," said Lakers head coach Luke Walton, "but we also know that it takes a team to win.
"We are therefore waiting for him to lead us and the other members of the team to continue playing and help us win games, this league is too difficult to tackle alone. So we are confident and believe that having them and it will take a complete group effort in this last straight line. "
Walton also said that his role in managing James' records and health would not change in the future.
"We have a pretty open dialogue about when to get it out, what we're trying to do," Walton said. "What we are trying to accomplish so that it is not different from my end."
Given his current position, Josh Hart, the Lakers guard, said the team could not retain anything in his efforts for a thrust in the playoffs.
"We just have to go and play basketball," Hart said. "Let him go out, he has to go out and get 40 [points] and 10 [rebounds] and 10 [assists] and on average a double triple for us, he is able to do it. Obviously, we would like to limit that, keeping some for the playoffs.
"But for the moment, the most important thing is that we can not be too conservative.We can not be like: 'Ok, we have to be like saving some things for the playoffs.' Right now, we are fighting. Every game is important to get to the playoffs. Every game is the most important match and we just have to cross it. "
For his part, James said that he felt good.
"I feel pretty good physically," he said. "I arrive at the third goal, I slip home as I felt before the injury, and I come home just as clean.
He smiled and added later, while looking up at the sky: "I feel pretty good even at 280 pounds."
James, rated as weighing 6 feet 8 inches and 250 pounds, was responding to a comment last Friday by Brian Windhorst of ESPN on the collective Hoops podcast, referring to the weight that James seems to have taken for more than one year. month due to an injury to the groin.
Windhorst said "the noise in the street is that LeBron is 280 years old now, I mean, he is wearing it well." Others have contested the weight, estimating that James is closer to 260.