If you thought LeBron James was going to hit the panic button after a few preseason losses, you may be stuck waiting a while. While the Lakers have begun exhibition play 0-3 so far after a 121-114 defeat against the Golden State Warriors on Friday night in his and Russell Westbrook’s debut as teammates, James made it clear following the defeat that he couldn’t care less about what the team’s preseason record is.
More than that, James is not even really sure what he’s supposed to be taking away from these meaningless exhibition games.
“I just want to continue to play ball, continue to work on our habits, things of that nature. I mean, preseason is...” James began, laughing and trailing off, seemingly pausing to consider in real-time how hard he wanted to blast the NBA’s annual preseason exhibition slate. “I care more about the practice court than I care about preseason games. You get out there and play rotations, and you’re trying to figure out things of that nature. There’s only so much you can get out of a preseason game, at least for me individually.
But in case that didn’t make it clear enough where James stands on how much he can learn from these games, he was happy to get even more explicit when pressed on his first answer.
“It means something, as far as individuals getting in rhythm, getting in game shape. We have our practices, but being out on the floor and bumping up against another team and things of that nature, that helps. All I’m saying is that for me, there’s nothing I’m going to learn in preseason at this point of my career,” James said, laughing.
And when he says nothing, he means nothing.
“Nothing at all. I’m not going to learn anything. Nothing. That means zero,” James said. “Working our habits and building camaraderie and chemistry out on the floor, that’s always good. Like I said, I love the practices more than the preseason games because you’re making mistakes and you figure it out right there. You’re able to stop and just talk about it, and things of that nature, and go back and rewatch things. We can do that obviously the next day after a preseason game, but we do it right on the fly in practices. So I’m more inclined to love those more at this point. Because there’s nothing on the floor that I’m going to learn, for me individually.”
Russell Westbrook is of the same mindset, even if he was a little less candid about it. He’s not stressing that he and James combined to turn the ball over eight times in just one half of exhibition play, or that the team coughed the ball up 27 times total. Westbrook expected growing pains for his new team in his debut, and he expects them to continue.
“We’re not going to figure it out right now. Not everything’s going to be figured out in the next week or two,” Westbrook said. “We’ve got a long year. This is the preseason. First game for a lot of us since... April, May or something like that, so we’ll figure it out.”
That has been a theme of much of the Lakers’ comments to the media since training camp began, a trend our own Darius Soriano wrote about earlier this week. This is an overhauled team full of veterans who know that they aren’t going to reach their full potential as a unit in their first few games together, and aren’t afraid to admit it. They’re well aware they’re going to have to work to reach their ceiling, and they want everyone watching to know that this is going to take time, and that there will be ups and downs as the process moves along.
“We’ve still got to figure it out. A lot of guys, including myself, are still learning a new defense,” Westbrook said. “We’ve got to trust in the things that we know, and learn some of the nuances of our defense. We’ve got some time, we’ll figure that out.”
According to James, though, it should just be noted that they will mostly figure that stuff out during practice. Analyze how they look on the floor in disorganized, glorified scrimmages at your own peril.
“I love our practices. I love what we’re doing and continuing to work behind closed doors,” James said. “I really don’t put too much into the preseason to be honest.”