LeBron James’ preseason plans, Hachimura’s aggression and more: Lakers Notebook

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The Lakers will have to wait at least one more game to reveal their highly anticipated starting lineup.

LeBron James said Thursday he will not play in the Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason opener against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, but admitted he will try to play in “at least half” of the team’s six preseason games.

“Six preseason games, so hopefully I can play in at least half of them,” James said after practice Thursday. “But we’ll see. I think every game will determine that. I won’t be playing Saturday in the Bay Area, that’s for sure. But we’ll see after that.”

James looks like a “freight train” in scrimmages, and coach Davon Hamm said he’s much like his third or fourth grade self athletically. But the superstar is nearly 39 years old and about to enter his 21st season, and although the Lakers have managed to reduce the workload, he faces an unprecedented workload. As a result, the Lakers, James and James’ longtime athletic trainer, Mike Mancias, are cautious about training him this season.

“Just relax,” Hamm said of the Lakers’ plans with James. “The fact that our roster is what it is, he doesn’t have to put on a cape to start the season, so to speak. … The help around him will allow him to not have to be in every practice and every preseason game.” Give it your all.”

But that didn’t stop James from interrupting Jaxon Hayes’ media coverage and throwing down a thunderous windmill dunk after catching a bounce pass on the other side of the gym.

“Oh my God, did you just see that?” Hayes interjected. “… came out of nowhere. I’m not ready yet. Sorry, guys. This kind of caught me off guard. “

Hamm said James doesn’t have a target time frame for the start of the new season yet, but he plans to make a decision soon with James, Mancias, assistant coaches and the team’s performance and medical staff.

Los Angeles already has ideas for fifth starter

Since James did not participate in the preseason opener, the biggest question in training camp is- Who is the fifth starter? — was shelved. Hamm said he will use a lineup against the Warriors on Saturday and wants to evaluate whether it is suitable for regular season use.

Ham was asked what traits he’s most looking for in a fifth member of the starting lineup and how they complement James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reeves and D’Angelo Russell.

“If I told you, you’d know who I was going to start,” Ham said with a laugh.

This can be achieved in a number of ways. It’s worth noting that all three candidates, Jared Vanderbilt, Hachimura, and Taurean Prince, possess unique skill sets: Vanderbilt’s defense, Hachimura’s offensive skills, and Prince’s three-pointer.

But after some hedging between midday and the start of training camp, Hamm clarified that the Lakers already know who the fifth starter will be.

“We’ve definitely got an idea of ​​who’s going to fill that spot,” Hamm said. “But we’ll see. I mean, we’ll be managing some guys in the preseason schedule. You’re going to see some different lineups. But we definitely know who we’re going to start with.”

After weeks of deliberation and days of scrimmages and practices, it appears the battle for the starting forward position may finally be settled. The answer may be revealed in the coming days.

Hachimura’s rim attack and footwork

Thursday was the first time James spoke publicly since Monday’s media day, allowing for a few follow-up questions about James’ coaching dynamic with Hachimura. James shared that Hachimura went to visit him “a few times” over the summer and clarified that Hachimura was the only teammate who followed him.

After being interviewed by the media, James immediately returned to the training ground and participated in a three-point shooting contest with Rui Hachimura.

The Lakers invested heavily in Hachimura this summer, signing him to a three-year, $51 million contract after his breakout performance in the playoffs. During the regular season, Hachimura averaged only 9.6 points per game and had a true shooting percentage of 55.3%, including 29.6% from three-point range. In the playoffs, his scoring average increased significantly to 12.2 points per game, his true shooting percentage was 66.8%, and his three-point shooting percentage was 48.7%. He became a reliable contributor, locking down the final lineup and inevitably making his way into the starting lineup.

Now, Hachimura is trying to translate that playoff success into the regular season. His goal in training camp is to use his face-up shooting ability, size and athleticism to get to the basket more, rather than just relying on his mid-range game.

“I just want to attack the basket more,” Hachimura said. “I know I have the midrange, but I’m working on being more aggressive at the rim. I’m working out a lot off the court and lifting weights and lifting weights. My body is getting stronger. I have More footwork. “I just wanted to get easier points. “

More specifically, Hachimura spoke at length about his footwork, which he improved through hours of repetitive drills with Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy.

“If my footwork is good, I can get anywhere,” Hachimura said. “I’ve got a midfielder. I’ve got the body and the frame. I just have to get my footwork right. That’s what we’re doing. “It’s good. “

Since arriving in Los Angeles, Hachimura has mentioned revealing the truth at important moments. He claims that’s why his three-point shooting improved by nearly 20 percent in the playoffs. On Thursday, he reiterated that competing for a title in the spotlight is more motivating than earlier in his career.

“I like this,” Hachimura said. “I love those big stages, those big games. Honestly, I love that, when I was with the Wizards, we didn’t really have a championship goal like that. Of course, with this team, we have championships, bigger games. Goals. Motivation is different. I have more motivation.

“Every day is going to be different, it’s a long season, so mentally, physically, I just have to be ready.”

LeBron’s first Olympic recruiting win?

James has been linked to Team USA since shortly after the U.S. men’s basketball team finished fourth at the 2023 FIBA ​​World Cup. At media day, he confirmed his interest in representing Team USA at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

When asked about it again on Thursday, James said he was “excited” but wanted to keep the Lakers’ 2023-24 season as the main topic of conversation.

“Obviously, I’ve always put the main thing in the main thing, and now obviously the Lakers, we’re going through this,” James said. “Obviously, with health and optimism and a lot of great things happening, I’m looking forward to seeing how this team builds and what might happen, what happens with the Paris Olympic team. So, a lot of the guys are excited about it. I’m excited about that, too. Obviously, that’s the most important thing, so I know I can keep it that way.”

The Olympic question prompted follow-up reports that Joel Embiid agreed to play for Team USA instead of France or Cameroon earlier in the day.

“What happened?” James asked shyly.

I’m committed.

Oh, that’s great. “For us?” James replied.


“It’s great,” James said. “That’s a great time.”

Did you call to ask about this?

“I don’t know,” James said, then smiled and walked away.

What’s the most common question each player has during media coverage during the first week of training camp? Some version of “Who stood out the most during training camp?”

For Hayes, the answer to this question is obvious.

“Max Christie,” Hayes said. “Max Christie is a dog. Max Christie is a dog. His game really stands out to me. I watched him in summer league. Obviously, summer league is a thing about playing against young players. “He comes in here and has the same energy and the same mentality, so he’s been killing it.”

As Christie said during media day, the feedback he’s received is reassuring, but his main focus in training camp is establishing himself as a regular in the rotation. Ham, who will likely choose between Christie and Cam Reddish as the backup shooting guard, laid out what he wants to see from Christie.

“He’s already very competitive,” Hamm said. “He’s got to focus on defense and attack the right way, which he really does. And really ramp up the offense. He’s one of our most athletic players. He’s also done a really good job this summer with his conditioning. He’s Added some muscle. He can shoot, just keep it simple – threes when you’re open, and when you put the ball on the floor, if you don’t make other moves with your teammates, make sure you’re going downhill.

“That’s what he can do: stay competitive, defend like there’s no tomorrow, keep it simple but be aggressive offensively.”

Christie’s defense earned him rotation time in January last season. With the roster missing a perimeter defender, Christie’s playing time will likely depend on his value on that end of the court. Hamm sees him as a multi-positional wing player who can handle all types of assignments.

“Of course,” said Hamm. “He has that ability and he’s tough. He doesn’t play games outside of himself. You give him some marching orders and he executes them, whether it’s an individual assignment or an assignment that he has to be within a team defensive concept. What a guy. A very, very smart kid. He has a very high IQ and is very solid in all aspects.”

(Pictured above: Rui Hachimura and LeBron James; Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today)

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