LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are in jeopardy of not making the playoffs this year — which would mark the first time in 13 seasons that James failed to reach the postseason.
The team currently holds a 28-29 record heading into the All-Star break and sits in 10th place in the Western Conference — two spots out of a playoff berth.
They’ve struggled in recent weeks, too. The Lakers have won just twice since James returned from his lengthy groin injury, suffered a pair of rough blowout losses to the Pacers and 76ers, and have gone just 3-7 in their past 10 games. They even fell again on Tuesday night to the Atlanta Hawks, who hold just a 19-38 record and are holding steady at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
Kyle Kuzma, though, said that making a successful playoff push is simple. They just need to have fun.
“We just gotta make the game fun,” Kuzma said on Tuesday. “We just gotta remember why we started playing this game. Play for fun, not as a business and not get too much stress out on the court.”
While having fun as a team is certainly critical for success, Kuzma also said that the Lakers are together as a team — something that was questioned repeatedly leading up to the trade deadline. With rumors swirling surrounding the potential Anthony Davis trade, and the Lakers offering the majority of their young locker room in a trade for Davis, the team was reportedly on edge — which cumulated with a heated exchange between veteran players on the team and coach Luke Walton.
Now, according to Kuzma, they’re all “cool with each other.”
“We’re a great group of guys, everybody gets along,” Kuzma said, via the Orange County Register. “Everybody is still cool with each other. We just gotta bring that to the court and just have fun. It’s the biggest thing. Because a lot of times we’re out there and we have sad faces and very focused faces, but I think we’re at our best when we’re having fun.”
LeBron James’ stricter approach
Having fun and being together are good first steps to making a playoff push, but the Lakers are quickly running out of time. They have just 25 games left in the regular season, and can only afford so many losses if they want to climb back into a playoff spot — preferably one that doesn’t pit them against the Golden State Warriors in the first round.
With such limited time, James said his approach in the final weeks of the season is different — and he has a message for the younger members of the Lakers.
“Just a little sense of urgency every game, how important every game is,” James said when asked what the young players on the team need for the playoff push, via the Register. “When guys have never played a playoff run before so you can’t teach them that, but it’s very important to understand how important every game is no matter who you’re playing and where you are.”
Hopefully, James said, the All-Star break will help the team get into the right mindset for the final stretch of the season. If they don’t come back “with the notion that we’re going to make the playoffs,” though, it could be a rough end to the season in Los Angeles.
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