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For the Los Angeles Lakers, the playoffs actually start today. Every game counts, every win is needed, every loss hoped to be avoided.
And LeBron James is just fine with it.
“I love being uncomfortable,” James said. “I fall in love with being uncomfortable. This is another uncomfortable thing for me and I love it.”
What’s causing James so much discomfort … and, uh, joy?
Well, his Lakers (28-29) are in a fight for the postseason, trailing the Los Angeles Clippers by three games for the eight and final playoff spot. The Sacramento Kings are also ahead of the Lakers in the West. So the Lakers will actually have to beat out two teams.
The Clippers are one thing. They really have no reason to make the playoffs. If they do, they will likely become first-round fodder. And if they do, they will lose their draft pick to the Boston Celtics (it’s top-14 protected). They traded standout Tobias Harris at the deadline and have their eyes set on free agency.
So the Clippers may not be a problem.
The Kings, on the other hand, are tired of being left out. They are a young team that wants to taste the experience. Every coach everywhere will tell you that young teams can learn a lot by even just one round.
Plus, the Kings have no first-round pick. That too belongs to the Celtics. Like the Lakers, the playoffs have already begun for the Kings.
But here’s the thing: Only one of those teams has James.
All he’s done is make eight straight appearances in the Finals. Of course, those all came in the Eastern Conference. No one is expecting the Lakers to compete for a championship this season. Making the playoffs, though, would open the door to all sorts of possibilities. As the entire league knows, with LeBron all obtsacles can be overcome.
“We know we have who we view as the best player in the world on our team, but we also know that it takes a team to win,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “So we expect him to lead us and we expect the other guys on the team to continue to make plays and help us win games. This league is too tough to do it by yourself.”
As for the man of whom Walton speaks, playoff-mode has been activated. And that comes straight from James himself.
“My level of intensity has to be [high], unfortunately for me because I don’t like to do it at such an early time,” James said. “I’m a little bit different.
“But it’s been activated. So look forward to see what we can do.”
James, 33, missed a career-high 18 games with a groin injury earlier this season. There are some questions as to whether the injury is fully healed. When he was healthy, the Lakers were a higher seed. None of that matters now.
“ I haven’t been in this position in a while because of my injury. It’s kind of hit our team,” James said. “Obviously, we would have loved to have success when I was out. But we didn’t so this is where we is right now. I’m going to be a little bit different a little bit earlier than previous years.”