That the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James this summer still seems surreal. Including, apparently, to team owner Jeanie Buss.
During an appearance on “America’s Lakers Podcast,” Buss made it sound like signing James still feels like a really good dream she could wake up from at any moment, even if she can see him working out from her office:
“Not until we start playing the games at Staples Center will I really believe that it’s happened, but I’ve looked out the window from my office and there he is on the court practicing with our players. I’ve obviously seen him play in person when the teams he was on would come to Staples Center, but he was always in the Eastern Conference so it would be one game a year, and now to watch the work that he puts in, to watch his footwork, to see him without a shirt, to be honest, is a pretty impressive sight.”
And a shirtless James isn’t the only thing Buss has been impressed with, because she’s already seen how James’ work ethic is inspiring the young Lakers to work even harder this summer:
“He is a remarkable athlete, and when you have somebody like him coming in and working at that level, he raises the bar for everybody else, so all the other players are coming in. And this is offseason, so there’s no mandatory practices, and they come in when they want to come in and work out.
“But once LeBron is here, then everybody starts coming in, so he’s really a leader for us.”
Buss isn’t the first person to point out how James’ presence is going to affect the young Lakers, and Lakers fans have to hope she won’t be the last. Lonzo Ball has also said that “guys have been in there working extra hard for” James, while Kyle Kuzma explained that James is already beating him to the gym, inspiring Kuzma to try and get there even earlier.
The value of James’ presence on the court is obvious enough to hit anyone paying even casual attention in the face, but intangible things like this are ways he’ll benefit the Lakers that some might not notice. Just the chance to compete on a nightly basis has to be invigorating for a roster full of young players that have never done so at the NBA level.
The euphoria of signing James will wear off eventually, and at that point the Lakers will have to find other, more intrinsic forms of motivation to better themselves. For now, however, it’s a positive sign that the young core is riding the wave of enthusiasm James injected into the franchise to better themselves at a key time in their development.
Now we just have to wait about a month to see some early results of their labors. Hang tight, the offseason is almost over.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.