LeBron James made his first public appearance since signing with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, watching as the summer league version of his new team hit the Detroit Pistons 101- 78.
"It will not be real for me Feel it until I see him at the training camp, "said a Lakers manager who stood no further than 40 feet from the superstar. "It's still hard to believe."
There has been unrest in Los Angeles since Klutch Sports, led by James' agent Rich Paul, published a deployment message on July 1 that would take James to the Lakers. That's how the great plan of owner Jeanie Buss and manager Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Rob Pelinka were confirmed by the NBA's best player.
For the moment, this honeymoon bill has reduced the pressure to add a second star. The team missed Paul George. Kawhi Leonard is a member of the Raptors – and while ESPN Chris Haynes reported that Leonard is not enthusiastic about the prospect of playing for Toronto, the franchise has one year to change his mind before becoming free Agency finds.
Finally, when Leonard does not come to LA, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, DeMarcu's Cousins, and even Kyrie Irving will be on the list of goals next July.
Still the franchise has a lot of work to do for the upcoming campaign to give James a roster that will be able to challenge the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference.
As the Lakers are currently set up, they have many guards and wings, but are a bit easy center with JaVale McGee's only freelance addition to the site. Ivica Zubac and rookie Moritz Wagner have to show that they are ready for regular roles.
Nothing about this trio should create trust. Instead, the best and only choice for the Lakers could be to use James as the center of the ball.
"We may not see this on the first day, but the coaching staff is eager to see our version of the [Warriors’] death lineup with Lonzo [Ball] Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, [Kyle] Kuzma and LeBron", said a second Lakers manager.
It's a great opportunity for the team's young players to prove they're ready to win games. James will have a collection of fresh-legged, long, active playmakers, scorers and defenders alongside him. For some it will sink or swim, but the team is curious how this group will compete with James in the middle.
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"The list we have in October may not be the same as February," continued the executive. "But we like what we have."
Not everyone is a believer.
"I do not think the Lakers make the playoffs," said a Western Conference rival who questioned the experience of her talent outside of James.
"James has been more and more on the defense in recent years, now he's going to complete games as Lakers 5." asked another skeptical manager. "Draymond [Green] is why that works for the Warriors."
Golden State has thrived in the middle with Green because he's such a versatile and motivated defender – and not charged with offensive action.
It remains to be seen how much the Lakers will rely on 33-year-old James on offense and whether he will also have the energy to anchor the defense.
Last season, James did not often play for the Cleveland Cavaliers (only 1.5 percent of his time on the ground, according to Nylon Calculus). The most prolific cast of the Cavs with James at 5 was George Hill, JR Smith, Kyle Korver, and Jeff Green. This group only played 22 minutes on NBA.com and averaged a positive rating of 9.3 on 100 possessions.
The young Lakers surrounding James may not have the same experience, but will have a significant advantage. 19659004] Johnson and Pelinka created the central theme by letting restricted agent Julius Randle go to the New Orleans pelicans and established starter Brook Lopez for $ 3.4 million instead of the $ 4.4 million Lakers spend , 19659004] The Lakers did not want to bring back players who, according to the second team leader, expected significant minutes. They are more interested in seeing what their young core besides James can do.
Could Luol Deng be a makeshift solution as a small center after serving most of last season?
The executive said that Deng is almost retiring. He must never play in the NBA again, unless he has a change of heart.
The Lakers have a roster available. Perhaps Jeff Jeff Ayres, who plays in the league this summer, may be an important part of the team's run to the Las Vegas championship game. The 31-year-old recently played in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2015-16 and has since played overseas in Japan, Russia and Turkey.
Ayres, who won a 2014 title with the San Antonio Spurs, also played for the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the D-League (now the South Bay Lakers of the G League). When the Lakers summer team needed a center, South Bay Lakers president Joey Buss and general manager Nick Mazzella Ayres called for a third team leader.
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It is worth noting that Ayres is represented by Mitch Frankel of Impact Sports Management. None of Frankel's customers are in the NBA except one: Leonard.
Last year's acquisition of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, represented by Paul and Klutch Sports, was a significant step in landing James in a freelance agency. The Lakers had a full year to build a relationship with Paul and ultimately James – maybe Ayres gets the team's last roster and a chance to play in some of the team's smaller lineups.
Maybe that's why Leonard lands in Los Angeles before the start of the 2019-20 season. The Lakers have not signed Ayres contract beyond the summer league, but that might be worth keeping an eye on.
In the meantime, the Lakers have to put James in the middle, hoping to turn them into their biggest weakening to strength
James has led his team to nine finals nine times in fifteen years, but on paper they might Lakers this season will not be considered a favorite.
How far they will go is dictated by the development of their many young players.
Regardless of the outcome, the Lakers have taken a big step towards seriousness after five disappointing seasons.