LOS ANGELES — No Derrick Rose. No Brook Lopez. No Carmelo Anthony. No Kobe Bryant. And several other notable NBA absences on Christmas.
But LeBron James? He keeps rolling through whatever the NBA grind throws his way.
It leaves the Miami Heat forward both appreciative and hopeful.
“Knock on wood,” he joked about a day when the NBA’s star appeal was distinctly diminished.
But he also explained that it takes more than mere luck to keep pushing through, including his 19-point, eight-rebound effort in 36 minutes in Wednesday’s 101-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
“I don’t have a key,” he said, with himself and backup point guard Norris Cole the only Heat players to appear in all 28 games this season. “I’ve been fortunate to be healthy. I try to do everything I can as far as strength and conditioning to stay above the curve, I guess. I don’t have an answer for it.
“We all know Father Time, whatever the case may be, is undefeated. But you just try to slow it down, I guess.”
James said a priority is to make sure the season is just about basketball.
“For me, I try to take care of everything I can off the court in the offseason, so when I get into the season, I can just go full steam,” he said. “When I do have a bump in the road I’m able to come back from it a little faster than anyone else would or I would, because I’ve always been able to keep my body right.
“But I don’t have a success story or a key to it. I just try to prepare the best that I can.”
And then there’s Bryant, who said pregame he was disappointed his latest health issue, a knee injury, had him out Wednesday.
“I was really looking forward to this game for being able to measure where I was physically,” the sidelined Lakers guard said of what was supposed to be part of his comeback from last season’s Achilles issue. “This was a very big measuring stick.”
Bryant said he plans to push for as fast a return as possible, with the Lakers’ lone remaining game of the season against the Heat on Jan. 23 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“My spirits are fine. I feel more locked in now than I have my entire career because of it,” he said.
Bryant insisted this latest injury had nothing to do with his expedited return from the Achilles. Of those who doubt what will come next in his career, he said, “It’s the same old tune. It’s just some are singing a little more loudly now. It helps me lock in.”
The last time the Lakers played on Christmas without Bryant was 1991. He had appeared in 14 consecutive Christmas games prior to Wednesday. The longest active streak of annual Christmas appearances now belongs to James, at seven consecutive years.
“It’s strange to be coming in on Christmas and not playing,” he said. “It’s a foreign feeling.”
James said he regretted that the chance of a potential NBA Finals matchup against Bryant at some point in their careers is diminishing.
“It definitely would have been great,” he said. “I think I wanted it. I think he wanted it. And I didn’t do my part one year, when we lost to Orlando in the conference finals. So I didn’t do my part to meet him there.”
Both James and Heat guard Dwyane Wade had conversions with Bryant during the course of Sunday’s game.
With the Indiana Pacers bypassed for Christmas, center Roy Hibbert took over ESPN’s NBA Twitter feed for the first quarter of Heat-Lakers.
Hibbert signed off by tweeting, “Thank u this has been fun. Follow me. Or I’ll come to Ur house and beat u at horse! Cause I’ll shoot first n dunk everything!”
Before that, Hibbert offered the obligatory, “Birdman! Birdman!” as well as, “Take a drink of egg nog ever time Ryan Kelly scores.”
He also turned advice columnist, offering, “Stop trying to take charges on KingJames please. This isn’t college bball. U will get finished. Wrap him up or hard foul.”
And of the NBA’s sleeved-jersey look for Christmas, he asked, “Who loves these jerseys because I don’t!”