While LeBron James had already played his first game as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Tuesday night was his first time taking the court at Staples Center with the home crowd fully behind him.
Hours before his Lakers debut at Staples Center, James said he considered the moment exciting and a “new beginning” for him. He and the entire Lakers roster were treated to a renovated locker room that the team didn’t unveil to the public before tipoff.
There was a noticeable buzz when the team took the court for warmups, and that carried into pregame introductions. Following a new video that was played before the starters were introduced, James received a thunderous applause after public address announcer Lawrence Tanter read through his script.
As for matters on the court, James played just 15 minutes. That didn’t come as much of a surprise, considering Lakers head coach Luke Walton indicated the 14-time All-Star wasn’t due to see much of an increase, if any, from the preseason opener.
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James nevertheless was effective and electrified the Staples Center crowd at various moments. He scored 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting, adding three rebounds, three assists, one blocked shot and two steals.
“The atmosphere was amazing,” James said of the sold-out crowd. “Definitely appreciated by all of us in here that they came through for a preseason game like this.”
The Lakers have four preseason games remaining, with the next coming Thursday at Staples Center. How much James plays in any of those contests isn’t yet certain.
James has made it clear he doesn’t feel much personal need to play significant minutes during the preseason, but he sees value in being on the court so the Lakers can continue to work toward developing chemistry.