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LeBron James 'ready for the challenge' of leading Los Angeles Lakers to playoffs

Watch Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Friday morning (3:30am)

Thursday 21 February 2019 09:47, UK

LeBron James lofts a jump shot against the Indiana Pacers
Image: LeBron James lofts a jump shot against the Indiana Pacers

LeBron James has made 13 straight postseasons and eight consecutive NBA Finals. So, with his Lakers needing one last push to reach the playoffs, he is far from panicked.

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"I enjoy the challenge of anything," James said at Wednesday's practice. "I enjoy being uncomfortable. I enjoy being counted out.

"I'm an African-American kid from Akron, Ohio, a single-parent household. Basketball is nothing compared to how I made it out. This is just basketball, and I know I'm ready for the challenge."

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Blazers @ 76ers free on Sky Sports

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With 25 games left in the regular season, the Lakers (28-29) are currently in 10th place in the Western Conference. They are three games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final seed, plus two games behind Sacramento for ninth. But James has faced far worse odds in his career, most famously rallying Cleveland from a 3-1 deficit in the 2017 NBA Finals.

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"I'm all about being uncomfortable," James said. "I love being uncomfortable. I fall in love with being uncomfortable. This is another uncomfortable thing for me, and I love it."

James conceded that this year will be "a little bit different" than previous seasons, considering the urgency the Lakers must have to reach the playoffs.

LeBron James talks to team-mate Brandon Ingram on court
Image: James talks to team-mate Brandon Ingram on court

With LeBron in the lineup, the Lakers have received playoff-like results, going 22-17. But in his five-week injury absence, they fell in the standings by going 6-12.

Rajon Rondo is mobbed by his Lakers team-mates after hitting a game-winning shot 3:29
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Yet LeBron has historically elevated his play after the All-Star Break, including last season when he averaged 26.5 points, 8.9 assists and 8.1 rebounds before, then 29.4 points, 9.5 assists and 9.8 rebounds after.

LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on against the Atlanta Hawks 1:55
LeBron James' fifth triple-double of the season was not enough to help the Lakers avoid defeat against the Hawks.

"If he has to go out and get 40, 10 and 10 and average a triple-double for the rest of the season, he's capable of doing that," Lakers guard Josh Hart said.

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NBA Primetime on Sky Sports

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"Obviously we would like to kinda limit that and hopefully save some of that for the playoffs.

"Right now the biggest thing is we can't be too conservative. Every game is the most important game, and we just gotta keep building."

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James connect during the All-Star Game 0:17
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James hark back to their Miami Heat days with an All-Star Game alley oop

Indeed, for all of LeBron's greatness, it will take more than one man to push the Lakers into the postseason.

James highlighted the team's need to clean up their turnovers (15.9 per game, second-most in the NBA) and free throw percentage (68.7, last in the league).

Thursday night's games

  • Phoenix Suns @ Cleveland Cavaliers, 12am
  • Miami Heat @ Philadelphia 76ers, 12am
  • Portland Trail Blazers @ Brooklyn Nets, 12:30am
  • Boston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks, 1am
  • Houston Rockets @ Los Angeles Lakers, 3:30am, live on Sky Sports Arena
  • Sacramento Kings @ Golden State Warriors, 3:30am

"We're ready to make a push," Hart said. "No one has their head down, no one is regretting anything. We're all focused on making a push for these playoffs."

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