While the Lakers may have come away better at the trade deadline, they buried themselves in a rather deep hole in the Western Conference standings, leaving them quite an uphill battle to make the playoffs. It’s not an insurmountable hill to summit, but it is one that the team is quickly running out of time to climb.
LeBron James will, obviously, be the focal point of any sort of postseason charge. He is also well aware of the importance of this upcoming stretch for the Lakers as he spoke about it with strong words during his press conference at All-Star Weekend.
“It’s 23 of the most important games of my career for the regular season,” LeBron said. “It’s the type of mindset I have and I hope guys have coming out of the break.”
There are a number of things to take away from that quote, but perhaps the most encouraging is the mindset LeBron is going to carry in these games. He has, at times, been guilty of mailing in parts of the season, including the closing weeks if he feels the team doesn’t’ have it.
This quote, though, is not one coming from a guy that is anything but laser-focused on the season. If LeBron has this type of mindset, then he can be as good as anyone to close out the year.
The question, though, is going to be his health. LeBron’’s left foot kept him out in the games leading up to the All-Star break and health has been a general concern for him in recent seasons.
“This couple of days has helped, not having to stress it being out on the floor has helped,” LeBron said of how his foot was feeling during All-Star Weekend. “Obviously, I’m going to not go too crazy the day of the game. Have a little fun but not go too crazy, understanding the most important thing for me right now is maintain my health and be available to my teammates after this break because we have to make a strong push if we want to do anything special.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now. I came out of the game Wednesday feeling pretty good.”
One specific segment in that quote is of interest considering he exited the All-Star Game itself at halftime and did not return. LeBron didn’t seem all that bothered by the finger injury that forced him out of the contest on Sunday either.
What James does seem interested in, though, is this final stretch of games that is going to make or break the Lakers’ season and playoff hopes.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.