After being shut down late in the 2018-19 NBA season, LeBron James played his first game for the Los Angeles Lakers in six months to begin the 2019 NBA preseason.
Following the most significant injury of his career, there have been numerous questions about the 34-year-old heading into his 17th season as Father Time is undefeated.
In James’ first game with Anthony Davis and the new-look Lakers, he finished with 15 points (5-of-10 shooting from the field), three rebounds, and eight assists in just 18 minutes.
Following the 123-101 win over the Warriors, James admitted he ‘had some butterflies,’ via Spectrum SportsNet:
“I had some jitters tonight. I had some butterflies in my stomach… just off of straight-up excitement. And also a little bit of nervousness too because I got hurt in the Bay when I was at full strength, so it’s great to get back out there and have a lot of fun. I didn’t even think about it being a preseason game. I thought about it being a game and how we can get better. I didn’t want to take it lightly because it was a preseason game. I think none of us did. We got better today.”
Considering all that James has accomplished in his future Hall of Fame career, this was certainly surprising to hear. However, he only played in 55 games and missed the NBA playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
With all the negativity surrounding him for the past six months, James is ‘very motivated’ to prove he is still the best player in the league today. When healthy, it is difficult to go against James — even at this stage of his career.
As James received some much-needed help in Davis and strong role players, the Lakers should be viewed as championship contenders if they are able to stay healthy.
With the Lakers traveling to China for two games against the Brooklyn Nets, the hope is they can quickly build team chemistry. As there are nine new players, it is the immediate focus if they truly want to win the 2020 NBA Finals now.
While most teams are in a similar position as the Lakers, it is an opportunity for them to get ahead of the curve. Since James and Davis get along on- and off-the-court, it should make the process a lot easier for the rest to follow.