LeBron James was treated to a blowout win by the Los Angeles Lakers in his first public appearance since signing and, when asked about it after the game, the guys who played had plenty to say about James’ presence, but were pretty clear that they didn’t want to let it distract from the task at hand.
Miles Simon, the team’s head coach, was asked whether he thought the guys got any kind of lift from seeing James courtside, and was pretty dismissive of the question’s premise (via Lakers.com):
”I can’t speak for that, but hopefully the boost is just that we have a competitive group and wanting to win. But obviously I’m sure they have their eyes on LeBron. Some of these guys are his future teammates and are going to play with him in the fall, but our guys just have a lot of heart and a lot of toughness and it’s a fun group to coach.”
More important than how the players reacted to seeing LeBron on the baseline is how well they might fit if they’re all on the court together. Simon was again noncommittal at first, but granted that the team’s versatility helps them play with anyone, let alone someone as talented as LeBron.
“I couldn’t say, because none of us have experienced coaching LeBron or playing with LeBron but we have a group that is adaptable to how he plays. If he wants to be on the ball, off the ball, I think they’ll mesh well with him because we have guys that are multidimensional.”
Alex Caruso lit up the crowd with a three at the end of the second quarter, a play that elicited a celebration from James, a reaction he only saw afterwards when a friend sent him a snapchat of it. He said the entire experience was pretty cool, even if it still doesn’t seem real:
“It’s pretty surreal. Now he’s really on the team I guess. It was good to see him and B.I, who showed up later too. Just to see them supporting us shows that they care and that they’re excited for the season.”
The player most likely to play with LeBron of anyone on the team is Josh Hart. He greeted James before the game and once again was the best player on the court when the contest started. Still, Hart wasn’t going to act like a fanboy, downplaying James’ presence as much as anyone ad making it clear he won’t easily be distracted.
“At the end of the day, I play the game 94x50 feet. Honestly it’s cool that he’s there, and before the game you can say ‘that’s cool’ and after the game you say ‘it’s cool,’ but during the game, if it’s not those guys on the court I don’t really pay too much attention to it.”
Svi Mykhailiuk, ever the storyteller, summed up the general response from the Lakers to questions about LeBron following their quarterfinals win:
“Him coming out to the game and watching the game was cool.”
Quotes transcribed via Lakers.com.