LeBron James has not missed the playoffs in consecutive years since the first two seasons of an NBA career that’s spanned two decades.
He is intent on not letting that happen again, telling reporters before his 19th consecutive All-Star Game of his urgency to right the ship.
The Lakers currently sit 13th out of 15 Western Conference teams with a record of 27-32, 3.5 games behind the sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, and two games out of the 10th seed as the Play-In Tournament begins to look like a more realistic path to the postseason.
"I don't want to see myself not being part of the postseason for two years straight," James said. "It’s just not part of my DNA."
With fellow perennial All-Star Anthony Davis now back healthy and trade-deadline additions of guard D’Angelo Russell, shooting specialist Malik Beasley and frontcourt players Jarred Vanderbilt and Mo Bamba, James said he feels a healthier and revamped Lakers squad will be a formidable opponent for any team should they reach the postseason.
"I've always been confident in any club that I’ve been on [that] once we got to the playoffs we could compete with anyone," he said. "I feel no different now.
"With the roster the way we're shaped up 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."
19th All-Star Game and he's throwing alley-oops to himself pic.twitter.com/QwoOxZL6ZK— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 20, 2023
James stopped short of guaranteeing a playoff berth, though, as he acknowledged the competitiveness of a conference where only two teams – San Antonio and Houston – have no realistic chance of advancing.
"It’s 23 of the most important games of my career, for a regular season," James said of the Lakers’ remaining schedule. "It’s the type of mindset I have, and I hope the guys will have, coming off the break.
"It’s going to take a lot of commitment, which is okay, that’s what it should be about. [But] if we can punch our ticket, we can compete versus anyone."