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LeBron James embarks on ‘the 23 most important regular-season games of my career’

SALT LAKE CITY — The Los Angeles Lakers are 27-32 and in 13th place in the Western Conference with just seven weeks left in the regular season. But they are just two games out of the play-in race, which would give the Lakers a chance to make the playoffs.

“The 23 most important regular-season games of my career,” LeBron James said Sunday afternoon before All-Star Game tipped off.

That’s quite a statement from the 20-year veteran and the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

“I want to make a push to make the playoffs,” James said. “I don’t want to see myself not being involved in the playoffs for two years straight. It’s not part of my DNA sitting up here talking about records and things of that nature. That’s all cool, but I’m more passionate about trying to make the postseason. That’s just who I am.”

James has not missed the postseason for two consecutive years since his first and second seasons in the league in 2003-04 and 2004-05. A sore left ankle sidelined James for three of the four games before the All-Star break and he has limited playing time with new teammates acquired via trade in the past month.

Ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline, the Lakers acquired Rui Hachimura from Washington, D’Angelo Russell from Minnesota and Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt from Utah.

“I hope I can figure out a way to just make sure I’m available for every single night for these 23 games, to give us a chance, give our group chance to be able to compete every night and give us a chance to win every night,” James said.

The Lakers resume their season against Golden State on Thursday and have the 25th-easiest remaining schedule, according to tankathon.com.

“I’ve always been confident in any club I’ve been on, once we got to the playoffs that we can compete with anyone,” James said.

Source: USA Today