LeBron James Discusses His Approach For Final 29 Games

Melissa Rohlin

The 'Dog Days' of January are over. The malaise that permeates the stretch between the holidays and the All-Star break is gone. 

With only 29 games left in the season, the Lakers are starting to feel a sense of urgency. 

"The stretch run, we know how important it is, how important every game is, and how we continue to get better and better and better each and every day," LeBron James said at Lakers practice Thursday. "It’s all part of the process. Can’t shortcut the process. We’re not going to think too far ahead. We’re going to approach tomorrow like this is our own Game 7."

The Lakers, who have the best record in the Western Conference at 41-12, host the seventh-place Memphis Grizzlies (28-27) on Friday at Staples Center. 

It's their first test after the All-Star break ahead of what's going to be tough stretch, with games against the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and the Clippers over the next few weeks. 

"We play the Memphis Grizzlies and we need to go at them as we know they’re going to go at us," James said. "And we just build on that." 

James didn't get much time off to reset ahead of the final portion of the season. Instead of vacationing on a beautiful island, he played in his 16th-straight All-Star Game, leading Team LeBron to a 157-155 win over Team Giannis on Sunday. 

The three-time NBA champion, who has been to The Finals eight of the last nine seasons, acknowledged Thursday that he wouldn't have minded a bit more time to recalibrate. 

"I wish I had a couple more days," James said. "Excited to get back to see my brothers. Get back on the floor and put in that work. Put this purple and gold back on. I’m looking forward to the stretch run."

Lakers' coach Frank Vogel said that even though he coached Team LeBron during the All-Star Game, he couldn't help but use the time to think about ways the Lakers can improve. 

"I’m incapable of not really doing it," Vogel said. "I’ve kind of done it every day throughout the course of the season."

Vogel said his biggest task going forward will be keeping the team present. There's also some tweaks he'd like to make. 

"There’s some things that I’d like to see that I’m not sure if I’ll get a chance to experiment with, with regard to lineup changes and rotations and different combinations and things like that," Vogel said. "But we’ll continue to just coach the team to try to win the next game, continue to keep the play-hard habit, execute at a high level and just try to improve our weaknesses."

At times throughout the season, the Lakers have shown holes on defense and various role players have struggled with being inconsistent.

But both of the team's superstars are playing at an extremely high level. James, 35, is leading the league in assists with 10.8 a game while also averaging 25 points and 7.8 rebounds. Anthony Davis is averaging 26.6 points and 9.2 rebounds a game. 

Heading into the final stretch, James said he intends to lead by example.

"For me, personally, it’s my leadership, it’s the way I play the game, it’s the way I approach the game," James said. "It’s my mindset to lead these guys every night we go on the floor. So I’m looking forward to these next 29."

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