As bleak as things might seem for the Lakers after Tuesday’s 109-104 loss to the Dallas Mavericks — the 10th defeat in the Lakers’ past 13 games — dropped Los Angeles just two games away from falling out of the play-in tournament altogether, LeBron James insisted he won’t give up on the season.
“We still have games to play,” he said after the Mavs finished on a 15-4 run in the final 7½ minutes of the fourth quarter to win it. “Until you stomp me out, cut my head off, bury me 12 feet under, then I got a chance. So that’s my confidence.”
James, who has missed 17 games this season because of various injuries and most recently sat out five games from late January through early February with swelling in his left knee, has no plans to shut his season down at any point, sources close to James told ESPN. James is committed to play out the season, wherever it goes.
In James’ first season with the Lakers in 2018-19, he sat out nine of L.A.’s final 14 games — including the last six straight — after missing a significant portion of the season prior to that because of a groin injury.
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Just before last month’s All-Star break, James was asked about the status of his knee and said that he will need more time to get back to 100 percent.
“The only way it’ll be back to full strength is with rest,” he said. “And I don’t have the luxury of having rest. So it’ll wait ’til the offseason.”
The Lakers were coming off perhaps the worst loss of the season on Sunday when they were booed off the court by the home crowd en route to a 28-point loss to a New Orleans Pelicans team that is chasing them in the standings. L.A. looked better against Dallas, but several of the Lakers’ persistent problems were there.
They fell down by as many as 21 points in the first half, a theme of theirs, and Russell Westbrook struggled mightily, shooting 5-for-17 from the field. Westbrook’s woes, of course, have plagued the team since training camp.
“Got to be better overall,” Westbrook said of his play. “What I’m doing right now ain’t good enough. It ain’t good enough.”
Like James, Westbrook maintained that L.A. still has plenty more to play for.
“Super confident that we’re going to be all right,” Westbrook said. “I’ve got confidence in this group, like I always have. And we can play the best teams. I’m not worried about nobody we have to play. We’ve beaten the best teams; we’ve lost to some of the worst teams. So, our confidence and my confidence in this group is extremely high because I know what we’re capable of when we put our mind to it and do exactly what we need to do on a night-in, night-out basis.”
The Lakers (27-34) are currently the No. 9 seed, two games up on No. 10 New Orleans, which is in a virtual tie with the No. 11 Portland Trail Blazers, who are also two games behind L.A.
“Obviously, at the end of the day, we got to come in here and win ballgames, and we got to play better. But as long as we’ve got more games to play, we should have a chance,” James said. “So, that’s my confidence. I hate losing. I feel like poop right now. But tomorrow is a new day, and I’m going to be prepared and ready for the Clippers on Thursday. That’s just — that’s my mindset. That’s just who I am.”
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