LeBron in LA: Su­per­star be­gins next chap­ter

Bangkok Post - - NBA - GREG BEACHAM

When LeBron James chose the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, the bur­geon­ing en­ter­tain­ment mogul re­alised many peo­ple would think he joined a medi­ocre team with a fiveyear play-off drought be­cause he wanted to be in Hol­ly­wood.

James sim­ply scoffs at the no­tion he’s think­ing about any­thing but his day job as he be­gins the next chap­ter in one of the great­est ca­reers in NBA history.

“My de­ci­sion was based solely on my fam­ily and the Lak­ers,” James ex­plained be­fore his first full prac­tice in pur­ple and gold. “I’m a bas­ket­ball player. I play ball. That’s what I do. When I do it at the level I do, every­thing else will take care of it­self. As far as my busi­ness, those things have been tak­ing care of them­selves way be­fore I even came out here.”

Af­ter win­ning three cham­pi­onship rings while lead­ing — and some­times car­ry­ing — his last eight con­sec­u­tive teams in Miami and Cleve­land to the NBA Fi­nals, the 33-year-old James’ new busi­ness is restor­ing a frac­tion of the Lak­ers’ tra­di­tional glory fol­low­ing the long­est post­sea­son ab­sence in fran­chise history.

Two years af­ter Kobe Bryant’s re­tire­ment tour mer­ci­fully ended, the Lak­ers are rel­e­vant again. The court­side celebri­ties and world­wide fans whose in­ter­ested waned dur­ing this dour half-decade are back in force to see what LeBron can do in this un­usual, in­trigu­ing sit­u­a­tion.

The f our-time l eague MVP brought along a con­tin­gent of NBA veter­ans: Ra­jon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephen­son and Michael Beasley. They’re join­ing a young Lak­ers core with un­de­ni­able tal­ent — Bran­don In­gram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and rookie Moe Wag­ner — but zero NBA suc­cess.

James’ team­mates and coaches say he has ar­rived with the grav­ity of a cham­pion, but with none of the im­pe­ri­ous at­ti­tude that could ac­com­pany a player of his ac­com­plish­ments. He ac­cepts his role as a leader, but he’s fo­cused on mak­ing sure the Lak­ers feel like a team, not a bunch of play­ers in or­bit around him.

James also re­alises this par­tic­u­lar Hol­ly­wood project is even big­ger than him: The Lak­ers have made no se­cret of their plan to en­tice a se­cond su­per­star, likely younger than James, to join them in free agency or by other means. The up­com­ing sea­son is a show­case of this team’s l ong-term po­ten­tial with the right ad­di­tion next sum­mer.

“Win­ning makes it more fun, but we haven’t won any­thing yet,” coach Luke Wal­ton said. “We come into prac­tice and it isn’t loosey­goosey be­cause we’re ex­pect­ing to win games. We’re com­ing into prac­tice know­ing that if we want to win games, we have to do things a cer­tain way. Hope­fully when we get to games, that leads to us win­ning, and that would be fun. But we’re not there yet.”

Af­ter the Lak­ers open the sea­son in Port­land on Oct 18, James will make his Lak­ers home de­but against the mighty Rock­ets on Oct 20. Sta­ples Cen­ter court­side tick­ets are go­ing for five-fig­ure mark-ups on se­condary re­selling sites, and no seat in the build­ing is avail­able for un­der US$200. The Lak­ers’ vast pop­u­lar­ity in LA waned only slightly dur­ing their re­cent strug­gles, and the Lak­ers are once again the hottest sports ticket in LA, even with the Dodgers in the play-offs and the NFL’s Rams rolling through a per­fect start to the sea­son.

The Lak­ers’ LeBron James re­acts dur­ing a pre-sea­son game.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Thailand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.