In his first formal media session since joining the Lakers, LeBron James appeared more than willing to lower the bar on what should be expected in his first season in Los Angeles. His new team has “a long way to go to get to Golden State,” James said in referring to the two-time defending champion Warriors, adding that the Lakers' success shouldn’t be measured by how quickly they win a championship.
Speaking at a news conference Monday in Los Angeles, almost three months after jolting the NBA landscape with his free agency decision, James expressed excitement about meshing with his new teammates, describing them as a group that includes “ballhandlers, guys that can do multiple things, pass, shoot, rebound, put the ball on the court, and get out and run.” In the offseason, the team also brought in veterans such as Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley to complement a young core featuring Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Jason Hart.
The arrival of James, a four-time MVP who has been to eight straight NBA Finals with the Heat and Cavaliers, has caused more than a few Lakers fans to dream very big, but he cautioned that while Los Angeles has some players carrying over from previous seasons, “as far as the ballclub we’re all new to each other.”
“We have to take our bumps and our bruises,” said James, 33 (via NBA.com). “There are going to be good times and bad times. That’s what happens with a team that’s new.”
James contrasted the Lakers' situation with that of the Warriors, who he said “can pick up right where they left off.” He added, “We’re picking up from scratch, so we have a long way to go. We can’t worry about what Golden State is doing. … They’ve been together for a few years.”
“We can only focus on what we can do to get better as the Lakers franchise,” James added. “Hopefully some day we can put ourselves in a position to compete for a championship, as Golden State has done for the last few years.”
After spending the past four seasons in Cleveland and the entirety of his 15-year NBA career in the Eastern Conference, winning three championships along the way, James went to the Lakers on a four-year, $153.3 million deal. Although he has burgeoning interests as a producer of movie and TV projects, he denied that was a strong factor in choosing to play in Los Angeles.
“My decision was based solely on my family and the Lakers,” he said. “I’m a basketball player. I play ball, that’s what I do. … As far as my business, that took care of itself way before I became part of the Lakers franchise.”
Calling the Lakers a “historic franchise in this league,” James alluded to their 16 championships and legendary former players. “That’s excitement in its own right,” he said. “And then it’s just always humbling for me any time I get an opportunity to be a part of something special.”
As far as bringing the franchise its 17th NBA title, though, James asserted that he didn’t “believe the only thing that’s a success in marking a season is winning a championship.” He told reporters, “There’s only one champion, but that doesn’t mean you’re not successful. There’s gonna be wins and losses and things of that nature. … But if we continue to work the process and continue to sacrifice for one another and put in the commitment and the time to be great, everything will fall into place, as I’ve said before.”
Asked Monday about what “creates pressure” for him at this stage of his career, James replied, “Nothing,” before repeating the thought with a smile. “Nothing.”
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