LeBron James has long proven it’ll take a lot to knock him down. His confidence is unwavering. The source of that confidence?
“Cause we still have games to play,” James said on Tuesday after the Lakers' third straight loss and sixth in their last seven. “Until you stomp me out, cut my head off, bury me 12 feet under then I got a chance. So, that’s my confidence. Obviously, at the end of the day we have to come in and win ball games and we have to play better. But as long as we got more games to play, we still have a chance. That’s my confidence. I hate losing. I feel like poop right now.
“But tomorrow’s a new day and I’m going to be prepared and ready for the Clippers on Thursday. That’s my mindset. That’s just who I am.”
His confidence may be unwavering, but it’s hard to believe it’s founded in much the Lakers have shown of late. Already seen as a long shot by head coach Frank Vogel to play themselves above the play-in game, the Lakers coming out of the gate by losing three straight games not only makes that impossible, it has opened up the possibility that the team could fall out the other end of the standings and plummet out of the play-in game entirely.
Following Wednesday’s game, the Lakers have a 2.5 game lead over the Blazers in the 11th seed. The good news is Portland’s loss to Phoenix on Wednesday is their third straight. The bad news is, the Lakers are mired in just as bad a streak.
How confident, then, are the Lakers that they can maintain a spot in the play-in game?
“Super confident that we’re going to be alright,” Westbrook said.
That level of faith is not surprising from Westbrook, one of the league’s most stubborn superstars of all time. Ironically, those comments came before Westbrook’s acknowledgment that he must play better. But while the level of faith may not be shared across the Lakers, they do believe that they will get the ship righted before a disastrous ending.
“We have a resilient group,” Vogel said. “We’ve got three guys that are top 75 all-time. We’re hoping to get another one back. We’ve got some young guys that are playing their tails off and bringing great energy to our group and we’re doing enough in stretches to give us belief. We just haven’t been able to close out these last few games.”
If those top 75 players were in their primes, the Lakers’ faith would make sense — and they wouldn’t be in the discussion for the play-in game — but their all-time greats are hardly in peak form. Westbrook’s struggles have been well-documented, Anthony Davis is sidelined and will be up against the clock to even get back on the court this season and Carmelo Anthony is little more than a role player at this stage of his career, even if he’s been one of the few positives this season.
Only James still resembles anything like his peak form, and he’s well past the days of being able to do it alone even if he was fully healthy.
James wasn’t interested in talking about the play-in game on Tuesday, instead keeping his focus on winning one game before worrying about those 20-plus games away. It’s a fair stance to take, even if the reality of the Lakers’ play-in hopes are rapidly approaching.
That’s the bad news of the situation. The good news? Even for his age and physical limitations currently, LeBron still has a lot of faith in himself. And so long as the Lakers have LeBron, they’ll have a chance.