Los Angeles Lakers season preview, LeBron James, has he retired, last season, championship odds

LeBron James enters his 21st season in the NBA hungrier than ever as he looks to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a record-breaking 18th championship.

James, 38, was depressed last season and hinted at possible retirement after the Lakers were comprehensively defeated by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

But a summer of rest and roster reshuffling has left James filled with optimism as the Lakers open the new season with a tough road game in Denver on Wednesday (EST).

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James’ renewed determination was never more evident than during the Lakers’ preseason games.

Christian Wood, one of several new additions to the Lakers roster this offseason, revealed that James is usually the first player to arrive at practice.

Determined to make a good impression, Wood said he recently arrived early for a voluntary training camp for players in San Diego only to find James beat him to it.

“I was trying to be the first one…the first guy I saw was LeBron James and he was sweating,” Wood told ESPN.

Meanwhile, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said James, who turns 39 in December, has been practicing “like a rookie.”

“He’s been training at 6 a.m.,” Pelinka said. “He’s as likely to be in our building as any player this offseason.

“Any team LeBron has played on, his job setting the tone has been pretty consistent.”

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James will enter the new season as the oldest active player in the NBA. But his statistics for the 2022-2023 season show that when healthy and hot, he remains one of the strongest individual talents in the league.

Last year, he averaged 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 55 games before leading the Lakers to the Finals, a season in which he surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the top spot. NBA all-time scoring leader.

Lakers management noted, however, that even taking into account James’ remarkable longevity, the four-time NBA champion would not be able to lead the team on his own.

As a result, the Lakers added offensive depth to the core of their revamped roster and relied on a steely defense to reverse last season’s decline.

In addition to Wood, the Lakers also introduced Gabe Vincent, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish and Jackson Hayes.

“I think the sky is the limit of what we can do,” Lakers coach Davon Hamm said.

“We added a lot of depth, a lot of players with skill, size and athleticism. “I’m looking forward to all of that coming together. “

James, meanwhile, believes the Lakers are ready to regain the NBA title they last won in the pandemic-affected 2019-2020 season. With one more championship, the Lakers would surpass the Boston Celtics with 18 championships.

“I’m very optimistic that we can learn from (last season),” James said at the Lakers’ recent media day.

“With continuity and chemistry, there shouldn’t be too much teaching. We’re returning a lot of our core. We have a lot of guys who understand the system and can pick up where we left off.

“I’m delighted that we’ve returned to our core and brought in a lot of really, really good players. But there’s no substitute for work and we have to put in the work.

“If we do that, we give ourselves a chance to compete at the highest level every night.”

According to recent reports, James is already thinking about next year’s Paris Olympics, although he has dismissed questions about whether this season could be his last.

James said staying healthy both physically and mentally will be central to his performance this season.

“It’s all about my health and my mentality,” James recently told ESPN. “No matter what your thoughts are, everything else will fall into place. So keeping my mind clear, my coordination, my skin intact during the marathon will allow my body to perform well afterwards.”

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