EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — As exhausted as LeBron James appeared after the Los Angeles Lakers‘ second day of training camp — plopped down on a chair in the interview room, sneakers unlaced and sweat dripping from his forehead — the Lakers star explained Thursday that it actually was a sign of fire rather than fatigue.
After last season’s camp opened less than two months following L.A.’s championship in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, the team was spent seemingly from the start. But this year, with the Lakers reconvening nearly four months after their first-round playoff loss to the Phoenix Suns, carrying 11 new players and given a fresh chance to capture title No. 18 for the franchise, things are different.
“Just the energy,” James said when asked what had changed. “Last year after coming off the bubble it literally took everything away from you. Any little bit of energy that you had, it was completely gone when we left there. … To come back into the season with the quick start that we had, kind of the life of the party was a little bit, just like, it was just kind of stale. You know, rightfully so. Guys just didn’t have an opportunity to get a mental break.
“You could definitely feel the energy shift a lot more in this season the first two practices compared to last.”
With former MVP Russell Westbrook added to the fold as the centerpiece of the cadre of accomplished vets that L.A. picked up in completely overhauling its roster, the added enthusiasm has also meant added interactions for James, barking out playcalls and instructions to his new group.
“Obviously you can tell I’ve been yelling the last couple days, just trying to implement everything,” James said, his voice clearly hoarse. “My voice is deteriorating as the minutes go on, but that’s a good thing.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel welcomed James’ presence as the 36-year-old star opens up his 19th season.
“He sets a great tone for attentiveness,” Vogel said. “Hanging on every word the coaches are saying and making sure he’s understanding it, executing it at the right level. I think that sets a tone for the rest of the guys absorbing what we’re trying to get through to them. It starts there. …
“If there’s a detail that needs to be cleaned up, he’s very vocal in those situations, too. But I think if his voice is hoarse, it’s because of the intensity of today’s practice. These guys really, really got after it today. So early in training camp, to see guys playing that hard and that physical is a great sign with the talent that we have.”
James called out newcomers Kendrick Nunn, Kent Bazemore and DeAndre Jordan for their strong start at camp. Lakers guard Rajon Rondo also heaped praise on Carmelo Anthony, saying, “I don’t think Melo’s missed since he’s been a Laker.”
And Rondo showed appreciation for James, too.
“It’s what greatness is all about,” Rondo said. “Every team that he’s played on has been to the top of the top. When a guy like that is setting a tone, everyone else has to follow, lock in and try to do the same.”
So if James appears tired when he leaves the gym during training camp, it’s only because of how much he was putting into the time he was in there.