LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida, USA
LeBron James never took it for granted, no matter how routine it had become.
He never took playing even a single playoff game in a season for granted, even long after the perception was created that it was a failure not to be in contention for the championship. The NBA is tough. He made her look simple.
And this postseason, his first in two years and the most unusual in league history, will be the most challenging to date, he said.
“Personally, this is the most complicated title dispute, due to the circumstances and the simple fact that we are here,” he declared at the conclusion of Monday’s practice at a Disney World event hall.
His Los Angeles Lakers sailed smoothly to first place in the Western Conference, but here there are none of the luxuries that a top seed usually benefits from. There are no celebrities in the front row of the Staples Center to motivate him. They face a rival, the Portland Trail Blazers, who took advantage of the four-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic to heal and arrive with a roster much more talented than any team in eighth place.
The only certainty is what’s on James’ mind.
“As far as my focus is on an opponent and individuals, that hasn’t changed,” James said. “What is different is this environment. I am not at home with my family. I don’t sleep in my bed. I’m not at the training facility. I’m not preparing to be at Staples tomorrow with our fans. I don’t have many essentials for my daily regimen. That is what has changed. But my mentality is always going to be in tune ”.
Like his abilities, of course. He averaged 25.3 points and led the NBA with 10.2 assists per game, but his Lakers need a lot more than that.
They needed someone to help them after the tragedy of Kobe Bryant, one of the most iconic figures in the franchise who died in January in a helicopter accident. And they continue to count on their experience as they face the obstacles of what could be a three-month tour.
“He’s the best leader I’ve ever been with and he represents all that is right,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He exudes class and we are very fortunate to have him on our team.”