There are no secrets, no hidden agendas, and no questions to ask.
LeBron James was very clear: there is an acceptable result for the rest of this season.
“That’s 23 of the biggest games of my career for a regular season,” he said before Sunday’s All-Star break.
And after a bit of a scare, James will have to deal with it next.
James missed the second half with a hand injury as Team Giannis beat Team LeBron. 184-175.
“Coach [Michael] Malone is a defensive-minded coach. I had it in my early days in Cleveland. I told him that he would give him a save tonight,” James said after the game. “I tried to get a little chasing block and got stuck on the edge. But I will be ok. I’ll be fine. I don’t think it’s much to worry about. For precautionary reasons, I had to take the rest of the night off.”
He was part of the only defense that played the entire game.
Boston’s Jayson Tatum, who was named the game’s most valuable player, scored 55 for Team Giannis, breaking Anthony Davis’ record for points in the game.
When the NBA resumes, the Lakers should be in a sprint: The team is two games out of the final play-in spot and 4½ games out of the No. 6 playoff seed.
James spoke before he captained and drafted his team to the All-Star Game (doing it on game day is a new feature) and while he fielded questions about breaking the league’s all-time scoring record, James insisted his focus is elsewhere.
“I want to make an effort to reach the playoffs. I don’t want to see myself not being a part of the postseason two years in a row. It’s just not part of my DNA,” James said. “We’re sitting here talking about the record and stuff of that nature, and that’s great, but I’m more passionate about trying to make it to the postseason and give us a chance to compete for another Larry O’Brien Trophy. That’s what I am, that’s what I’m cut from.
“So hopefully I can find a way to make sure I’m available on the court every night for these 23 games to give us a chance, give our group a chance to be able to compete every night and give us a chance to win every night for that we can give ourselves a chance to make the postseason.”
James has been battling foot and ankle injuries this season, the Lakers having won only five times in the 14 games he missed. James played in the Lakers’ last game before halftime after missing the previous three.
“The most important thing for me at the moment is to maintain my health and be available for my teammates after this break because we have to make a big effort if we want to do something special,” he said.
Sunday’s game began with a playground-style draft. Of the starters, James picked Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid first before selecting his former teammate (and Lakers trade target) Kyrie Irving of Dallas in second place.
Utah’s Lauri Markkanen was the last starter selected and Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. was the last reserve selected.
“It was good,” James said of the live draft, saying he preferred the televised versions in the past.
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who captained the team opposite James, played the first possession of the game, dunked and walked out, his wrist injured badly enough to limit his participation.
James vowed not to get “too crazy” during Sunday’s game, a rule he violated when an alley-oop was thrown against the backboard early in the game.
He finished with 13 points in 14 minutes before shutting it down for the Lakers’ final push.
Paul George scored eight points for Team LeBron on a tough shooting night during which the Clippers star missed all nine of his 3-pointers.
At halftime, James was honored onstage with the No. 2 and no. 3 top scorers of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
“That moment for me is, like, I’m standing between these guys, and I’m, like, it’s such a surreal feeling,” James said. “Growing up, I know you hear this story over and over again, but it’s just a part of my DNA. Growing up in Akron, Ohio, and thinking about playing games until I was 21 or 33 with my brothers and my friends growing up, we were always trying to emulate certain players. And to be mentioned with some of the best to have played this game, along with Karl and Kareem, is an honor, without a doubt.”
But for the rest of the season, honors are not the goal.
It’s the postseason, and James made it clear that it’s the most important thing.