If basketball fans think the hype surrounding LeBron James' arrival in Los Angeles was intense in the preseason, they should wait until the games start to matter for the Lakers.
Which is a few hours from now.
James debuts for the purple and gold in a game against Portland, where the new-look Lakers take on the Trailblazers at 10:30 a.m. (Manila time), the beginning of the LeBron era in Tinseltown.
Prognosticators have churned out glowing reviews of coach Luke Walton's team, which won 35 games last year on the strength of a young, developing core.
With a 4-time MVP and a veteran cast with championship experience coming in, talk is rife of a playoff appearance, the first in 5 seasons if ever for the Lakers.
But that's too far down the road — 6 months and 82 games to be exact — for a squad dealing with stratospheric expectations and an untested bunch playing together for the first time.
The focus for James and co. is at Moda Center, the first step in this long, likely entertaining, no doubt intriguing campaign.
"The season is here," James told reporters after a recent practice, according to a STATS LLC article. "First of 82 (regular-season games). It will be fun."
Much has been said about James and what he brings to the Lakers, but without the youth movement delivering on its promise the King's arrival will fall flat.
Brandon Ingram had an impressive sophomore season and is poised for a breakout campaign. Lonzo Ball, who was on the mend for months for a left-knee injury, offers an intriguing partnership with James, who has never teamed up with a pure playmaker such as Ball. Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart are two more versatile pieces that put to action Walton's vision for these Lakers — a team he and James would like to push the ball every chance they get.
"We want to play fast, and to do that we got to get guys in and out and in and out," Walton said. "So we'll get a good amount of guys out there."
James is entering his 16th season in the league, coming off a season in which he contended for the MVP and played 82 games for the first time in his career.
He's had a lot of mileage, no doubt, so if there's any concern about him, it's his health.
"We want to make sure we're not only playing at our best come the end of the season but that he's fresh," Walton said.
"And that's a goal for us. And it's a goal that we're on a journey and it's not a one-year journey. We're continuing to try to and be our best season by season, but also as each one goes on."
James is known for his obsessive approach to caring for his body, so " . . . if my body is feeling good, I am out there. If my body is not able to perform at the level that I would like to play for my teammates, then I won't."
The narratives are countless for these Lakers, ranging from individual ones as mentioned above to the collective — as in, amid the fuss, are they good enough to win?
The first of 82 regular-season games is hours away. James, the storied Lakers, and their proud fan base are all about to find out.
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