The Los Angeles Lakers are in 13th place in the Western Conference standings and two games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final spot in the play-in tournament, but LeBron James has no plans on missing the postseason again after falling short last year.
« Not being part of the postseason for two years straight, that’s not in my DNA, » he told reporters Sunday.
He also said the remaining 23 games are « the most important » ones of his career when it comes to the regular season.
Fortunately for James, the Purple and Gold are better suited to make a playoff charge than they were just weeks ago.
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That is because they added D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Rui Hachimura and Mo Bamba through a combination of moves ahead of the trade deadline. They also shipped off Russell Westbrook in the trade that brought them Russell, Beasley and Vanderbilt and no longer have to worry about the awkward fit with the point guard.
While Westbrook is a future Hall of Famer with a league MVP on his resume, his poor outside shooting never mixed well with James and Anthony Davis, who create so many openings for their teammates because of the defensive attention they draw.
Russell in particular is better suited to take advantage of that spacing, and the team is 2-1 in three games with him in the lineup.
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The improved roster isn’t the only thing working in Los Angeles’ favor. It also has the 25th-most difficult schedule remaining in the season, per Tankathon.
There will be no shortage of winnable games for James and Co. down the stretch, presuming they can remain healthy.
Remaining healthy has been part of the problem for the Lakers of late, especially with Davis. The big man has already missed 24 games this season and has been a health risk for much of his career.
His ability to stay on the court may be the difference between the Lakers making or missing the playoffs, regardless of what is in James’ DNA.