Los Angeles Lakers – With a week and a half off to rest his 36-year-old legs, LeBron James said he’s in the final stretch as the Los Angeles Lakers try to defend their title.

It’s time, James told reporters in a video conference Thursday before the Lakers’ first practice after the break. It’s time to get ready and turn the corner, the final lap leading into the postseason. … I’m not going to look ahead and say: Okay, let’s take this off, let’s take this off.

Nah, I gotta go.

The 18-year veteran lost his last game in L.A. before halftime – a 123-120 loss against the Sacramento Kings on the second night of a back-to-back – to rest his left ankle. That’s the only game James has missed this season. With averages of 25.8 points, 8 rebounds and 7.8 assists, he has placed himself in the running for the MVP award.

Between the Kings’ game and the break, James has 10 days off before Friday’s home game against the Indiana Pacers – excluding the 13 minutes he played in the All-Star Game before missing the second half.

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I use the first half of the season as 1, 2 and 3 speeds, then in the second half more like 4, 5, 6 and then when the playoffs start, you’re at 7, James said. And that’s how I’ve always adjusted the last few years of my career, really, more and more as the games progressed in the playoffs.

However, two other Lakers starters – Anthony Davis and Mark Gasol – remain neutral.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Davis, who has been eliminated since the 14th round, is sidelined. February developed tendinosis and a calf strain in his right foot and will not play against the Pacers, but team doctors will re-evaluate him Friday night at the arena.

Davis lifted weights Thursday at the Lakers’ training facility, but did not participate in a group workout with the team, Vogel said.

Since Davis has been on the court, Los Angeles is just 3-7, with a loss against Denver in Week 14. In February, Davis dislocated his right foot and did not play in the second half.

Gasol will miss his third consecutive game due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Bird said the Lakers don’t have time to get Gasol back.

Forward Costas Antetokounmpo, 30, is also out against the Pacers due to health and safety protocols, according to the team.

With Gasol out, Los Angeles can turn its attention back to center Damian Jones, who signed his second 10-day contract on Thursday. In three games before halftime, Jones had 12 points, four rebounds and four blocks in 30 minutes.

I want to know more about what he did, Vogel said of Jones. I think he played well for us. It plays the part of a frontal attack. Don’t try to play offensively out of this lane.

Last week we asked him to be a backup and a rebounder, be a threat on offense and defense, be able to hold down the middle, be a fullback, play in our pick-and-rolls and of course get the ball and play with other teams’ big centers – that’s what we asked him to do last week. I think he handled it well, and we will continue to evaluate it over the next 10 days.

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