If anyone in the NBA knows how to reach another level under playoff pressure, it is LeBron James. After all, the four-time MVP has been in the last eight NBA Finals, but he is facing a new challenge on the Los Angeles Lakers.
"It's been activated," he said Wednesday when discussing the intensity needed to reach the playoffs, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com.
The Lakers sit in 10th place in the Western Conference and are three games behind the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers.
This is somewhat new territory for James, 34, considering he has been in the last 13 playoffs and is often more worried about seeding following the All-Star break than whether his team will even qualify for the postseason.
Los Angeles is facing an uphill battle, even with its top playmaker's intensity dialed up. Holmes noted ESPN Stats & Information projects the Lakers to have the fourth-most difficult remaining schedule in the league, which kicks off again Thursday against the formidable Houston Rockets.
That James is ready to pick up the intensity should at least provide an answer to some of the team's lingering questions Joe Vardon of The Athletic reported on Monday. According to the report, some with the team are "privately a little concerned" about James' health and whether he will "pick up his intensity and propel this team back into the playoffs."
James suffered a groin injury during a Christmas Day win over the Golden State Warriors when the Lakers were fourth in the Western Conference. However, he said he feels "pretty good where I'm at physically," per Holmes, which is welcome news for the Lakers after they went 6-11 from Dec. 27 through Jan. 29 when he was out.
The only way the Lakers will make the playoffs is with James remaining and healthy and performing at a high level. He is apparently ready to do just that.