The stakes are high for LeBron James as the NBA season moves closer to restarting, writes Scott Cacciola of The New York Times. At age 35 and with a fourth championship possibly in reach, the Lakers star will have a chance to significantly add to his legacy.
Teammates say James maintained his leadership role through the nearly four-month hiatus, offering advice on group chats regarding topics such as gyms that were available for workouts and opportunities to speak out about social justice. He also stayed in top physical condition in preparation for a playoff run.
“He’s in the gym early, he’s leaving late and he’s the last guy working — and probably working the longest and the hardest,” Danny Green said. “He hasn’t changed at all, man.”
There’s more Lakers news to pass along:
- Veteran guard J.R. Smith, who signed with the Lakers last week, said the coaching staff has given him a clearly defined role, Cacciola adds in the same piece. Smith was instructed to “shoot the ball at a high level” and concentrate on defense, leaving the playmaking duties to others. “It’s fortunate,” he said, “because I’ve never been the guy who was really trying to set up guys.”
- Even though Avery Bradley opted out of the restart, he will receive a championship ring if the Lakers win the title, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Bradley, the only player from a serious title contender to pass on playing in Orlando, made the decision because of health concerns involving his six-year-old son. “Will I accept the ring? I’m neither here nor there about it,” he said. “I am 10 years in this league. The physical possession of a ring doesn’t make me feel like more or less of a person. I play basketball strictly for enjoyment and to add to the support of my family. Supporting them is exactly what I’m doing right now.”
- Rajon Rondo is sporting an impressive physique in a Lakers practice video that has been circulating on social media, notes Austin Boyd of Heavy. The 34-year-old guard is notably leaner and stronger than when the season was suspended in March.