LeBron chasing wins, not record, teammates say

LOS ANGELES, Feb 6 (Reuters) - LeBron James may be on the verge of breaking one of the most coveted records in sports, but his teammates said his focus is on helping the Lakers climb in the standings and not the 36 points he needs to become the NBA's all-time leading scorer.

The mood was relaxed as practice wrapped up on a sunsoaked Southern California day, but the large number of reporters on hand made it clear that excitement to see James surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's tally of 38,387 points was intensifying.

"It's exciting," Lakers guard Austin Reaves said.

"You are not going to see this for a while. Someone who's able to play for this long and be as productive as he's been since day one.

"Everybody is excited for him, but we're still trying to win games and hopefully we do that the same night he breaks the record."

The Lakers are 25-29 and 13th in the Western Conference standings but just four games off the number four seed.

James, who is averaging 30 points a game in his 20th season, will get his first chance at the historic accomplishment on Tuesday when the Lakers host the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Feb 2, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) in the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

If he comes up short, he will have another opportunity to reach the mountaintop at home on Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

"At the end of the day he's not going to change the way he plays, he just wants to win games," Reaves said. "So if it happens tomorrow or if it happens the next game, as long as we're winning, I think that's the main thing that he's worried about."

Lakers head coach Darvin Ham said James, who declined to speak to reporters on Monday, has tuned out the noise.

"He's aware of it, obviously, but he hasn't been caught up in it," he said. "His biggest thing is to win games."

Ham said he expects the atmosphere inside Crypto.com Arena on Tuesday night to be "electric."

"Everyone will be on the edge of their seats." he said. "It's good for the Lakers, good for the NBA and a hell of an accomplishment for LeBron, who has done it while playing the right way."

Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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Los Angeles-based sports reporter who interviews the most impactful athletes and executives in the world. Covers breaking news ranging from the highs of championship victories to the lows of abuse scandals. My work highlights the ways in which sports and the issues of race, gender, culture, finance, and technology intersect.