After the successful acquisition of LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers were expected to finally end their playoff drought in the 2018-19 NBA season. It’s hardly a surprise why most people think that the Lakers could be a legitimate playoff contender in the deep Western Conference, given that they just acquired the man who has been to the NBA Finals for eight consecutive years and is widely considered as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
However, earning a playoff spot in the Western Conference has proved to be a tough task even for LeBron James. In a recent conversation with Marc Stein of the New York Times, James admitted that bringing the Lakers back to the Western Conference Playoffs is a “daunting assignment.”
“When I crossed paths with James before Sunday night’s tipoff, in my weekend cameo with ESPN Radio, he acknowledged that hauling the Lakers to the playoffs will be a daunting assignment. But he also insisted that he’s starting to feel better physically at the most important time after missing a career-worst 17 consecutive games with a groin strain he sustained on Christmas.”
Aside from their struggle to immediately build chemistry, the Lakers were hit by multiple injuries in the first half of the 2018-19 NBA season. During their Christmas game against the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors, LeBron James suffered a groin injury and missed a career-worst 17 consecutive games. Without James to lead them, the Lakers went 6-11, causing them to drop from the Western Conference standings.
The Lakers are currently out of the playoff race, sitting in the No. 10 spot in the Western Conference with a 28-29 record. LeBron James and the Lakers only have 25 games left in the 2018-19 NBA regular season and most of those games are against playoff contenders from the Eastern and Western Conferences. Though the odds are currently against them, James remains confident about the Lakers’ playoff chances and said that the challenge he’s facing is nothing compared to the things he experienced during his childhood.
“I enjoy the challenge of anything,” James said, according to Yahoo Sports. “I enjoy being uncomfortable. I enjoy being counted out.”
Aside from his incredible skills, there is another reason why LeBron James and the Lakers should be optimistic. The Los Angeles Clippers, who currently occupy the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, just lost their best player, Tobias Harris, in a blockbuster deal with the Philadelphia 76ers before the February NBA trade deadline. So far, the Lakers’ strongest competition for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference is the Sacramento Kings, who recently improved their roster with the acquisition of Harrison Barnes.