LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers eager to start, mocking skeptics
By Mélissa Rohlin
NBA FOX Sports Editor
James lebron woke up at 5:30 am because he was so excited.
Despite being a senior in basketball years (36) and entering his 19th season in the league, he still looked forward to Lakers media day.
As he sat on a rostrum in front of a small group of masked journalists on Tuesday, he sincerely said he failed to answer their questions, including those which were “great and sometimes worse”.
One thing is clear about the Los Angeles Lakers: They are really looking forward to this season.
Their last two seasons were blurry. There has been a pandemic, a postponed season, a season resumed in a bubble, almost canceled playoffs amid protests of social injustice, a championship without fans, a historically short offseason, a multitude of injuries and a first round. breathtaking exit from the playoffs.
Now they are ready with relative ease.
Entering this season, the Lakers are widely regarded as the favorites to win the NBA Championship, with four future Hall of Famers on their roster in James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony.
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With this degree of talent, it’s the championship or the bust. And on Media Day, the Lakers systematically addressed their potential downfalls, namely age and chemistry, dismissing those concerns as laughable – literally.
James saw photos circulating the internet of him and his teammates with white beards layered over their faces. Heck, he admitted that some of them were “extremely funny”.
The Lakers have the longest-running roster in the league, with an average age of 30.9, having surrounded James and Davis this offseason with Anthony (37), Trevor Ariza (36), Dwight Howard (35), Rajon Rondo. (35), DeAndre Jordan (33), Wayne Ellington (33) and Westbrook (32).
But they choose to see this as a strength rather than a weakness.
“We have a bunch of guys who have been in this league for a long time who understand and know what it takes to win,” James said Tuesday. “This is the business we’re in – to win.”
This brings us to the next concern. The Lakers have so many guys in the business of winning. May be too much. Will they be able to mesh? Or will they be another bunch of disparate superstars who couldn’t fuse?
James has already started to tackle this problem.
Before the Lakers won a championship in 2020, he hosted a mini-camp in Las Vegas for his teammates to bond. He did the same before training camp this season.
After this trip, Rondo marveled that James was a superstar whisperer. He claims James has “the plan” to bring the guys together, which he has proven time and time again by winning championships in 2012 and 2013 in Miami alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, in 2016 in Cleveland alongside Kyrie. Irving and in 2020 alongside Davis.
After just a few days together in Vegas, Rondo said James has already worked his magic on this iteration of the Lakers.
“The energy and the chemistry already seems set in stone where the guys are willing to sacrifice, the guys are excited to play with each other,” Rondo said.
James, Westbrook and Davis each say they’re not concerned about chemistry, but they know it will take time for three of the league’s best players to figure out how to play together.
It will be a process, a process that they are mature enough – or old enough, if we avoid putting it mildly – to embrace.
“I always believe there will be ups and downs throughout the season,” said Westbrook. “There may be times when it seems like it doesn’t work. There may be times when he clicks all the cylinders. And as a team you have to understand that, and I understand that.”
James made it clear that he wanted “Russ to be Russ”. It’s no secret that all personnel decisions go through James and Davis, and they believe they can win alongside one of the league’s most dynamic players, even if he has the reputation for being fiery and intense.
But James said he’s never been concerned about playing alongside another superstar.
“Personally, I’m not worried about trying to adjust to Russ or D. Wade or AD when they made the acquisitions,” James said. “I still get that. I’m not worried about it. I don’t think it’s going to be like peanut butter and jelly to start the season, but it’s part of the process and part of my job.”
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The only other thing that could get in the way of the Lakers is health, which emerged last season. James and Davis both suffered injuries, missing 27 and 36 regular season games, respectively. They were then eliminated by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs.
Davis, who was hampered by right Achilles tendinosis in the regular season and a hypertensive left knee and strained left groin in the playoffs, said his body is now where it needs to be.
“I put the emphasis on taking care of my body and getting my body back to what it was in terms of strength during my first year here,” he said. “And that’s what I’m focusing on the most this summer.”
As this season approaches, everything seems to be on track for the Lakers.
They are old but wise. They are healthy and well rested. And their biggest superstar is as happy to be on the pitch now as he was when he was two decades younger, a phenomenon that has already had a powerful effect on the team.
As James drove to the Lakers’ training facility on Tuesday, he said he was eager to see his teammates. He was even eager to see the media.
“I’m excited about what lies ahead this year,” he said with childish enthusiasm before revealing the wisdom and power of his age.
“But every day is a process. It’s all about travel and work.”
Melissa Rohlin is NBA Writer for FOX Sports. She has previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group, and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.
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