EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — From the Warner Bros. soundstages to a private workout retreat in Las Vegas, LeBron James and Anthony Davis spent a whole lot of their long summer together.
The Los Angeles Lakers superstars say they’ve already formed a bond before they hit the court as teammates. That offseason work is the foundation for their efforts to build an immediate contender together with this long-struggling franchise.
When the Lakers reported to their training complex Friday, LeBron and AD were the center of attention amid the revamped roster they helped to create. They posed for photos, joked easily with themselves and their teammates, and generally looked like they’ve been together for years.
“It’s exciting to have such a beautiful young mind, a beautiful player, but also a great leader as well,” James said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for this franchise to have such an all-around great person. The basketball will speak for itself.”
Although Davis has one year left on his contract before free agency, the Lakers left no doubt they’re planning for a long-term future with the vaunted big man and his decorated new teammate. The Lakers’ roster was thoroughly revamped in the offseason, and general manager Rob Pelinka constantly consulted with James and Davis via three-way phone calls and text chains.
“I think the front office did a great job of including LeBron and myself in the decisions to build this team,” Davis said. “Every guy that is on this team, me and LeBron had a say-so in, and I think that’s very important. It would be pretty weird to go to war with a guy you don’t really like, so they made sure to include us in every decision.”
They also defeated the Monstars together, at least presumably: James spent part of his summer starring in “Space Jam 2” for Warner Bros., and he roped in Davis to play a part in the film coming out next year.
Unlike his media mogul teammate, Davis chuckled and said his role in the sequel is “a one-time thing. That was very time-consuming. At least right now, I don’t see any more movies in my near future, but it was a fun experience.”
James was the star of that show, but he doesn’t care about being the unquestioned star of the Lakers. In fact, James declared his hope that the Lakers’ offense will run through Davis, who is averaging 23.7 points per game over his seven-year NBA career.
“We all know how great Anthony Davis is, and if we’re not playing through Anthony Davis, why is he on the floor then?” James asked. “It makes no sense to have him on the floor, because he’s that great. That doesn’t mean every time down the floor we throw it to him, but we have the ability to do that.”
When he wasn’t dunking on cartoons, Davis also played a role in recruiting players to LA and persuading others to stay with the franchise he had just joined. The Lakers added sharpshooting veterans Danny Green, Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels in a bid to get the valuable spacing that will make the superstars more effective.
“I just told guys we definitely have the opportunity to do something special here this year,” Davis said. “All you can ask for is a chance in this league, and we definitely have a chance to do something special.”
More things to know from the Lakers’ training complex:
Kyle Kuzma was upbeat despite a stress reaction in his left foot that will sideline him until at least mid-October. The third-year forward has set a goal to become an All-Star as the only remaining member of the Lakers’ young core, which was broken up in the trade for Davis.
“Obviously I was disappointed, but it was good that we caught what I have at the right time,” said Kuzma, who felt the injury while training with the U.S. national team.
Dwight Howard is back in the Lakers’ jersey for the first time since he left in 2013, the start of six unsatisfying years for the big man and the team he left behind. Howard’s new teammates say he is humbler, more introspective and determined to excel as a role player or something bigger.
“I expect my teammates to hold me to a high standard, because I hole myself to one,” Howard said. “My job is to be the best Dwight Howard and the best teammate I can be.”
DeMarcus Cousins wasn’t available to reporters, but the big man was in his teammates’ thoughts. Davis is disappointed he probably won’t get a reunion with the star center, who badly injured his knee in an offseason workout shortly after signing with the Lakers.
“I was shocked, just knowing that he worked so hard to try to get back from his quad and his Achilles,” Davis said. “He hasn’t really had the opportunity to be old DeMarcus, and he wanted this year to be the year, because he felt like he was very healthy, and then the ACL happened. But he’s in good spirits. He’s just happy to be here and still be around the team, and we support him all the way through.”
The Lakers’ new head coach almost got lost in the shuffle of media day. Frank Vogel and a coaching staff including Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins will take charge for the Lakers’ opening practice Saturday with the goal of building a cohesive team out of all these new parts.
Vogel isn’t giving away a potential starting lineup or rotations just yet, but he is thrilled to take over a team with strong veteran leadership.
“When the belief is strong at the outset, then it’s about focusing in on the work, and we’re looking forward to getting after it,” Vogel said.
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