September 21, 2018 / 2:52 AM / 3 months ago

NBA: Laker LeBron already in 'mid-season' form, says Magic

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson on Thursday said newly-acquired forward LeBron James is in excellent shape ahead of next week’s training camp and will lead an up-tempo offense as the franchise attempts to return to NBA relevancy.

Jun 8, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game four of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports/Files

Johnson said the three-time NBA champion, who parted ways with the Cleveland Cavaliers over the summer to make the move out west, is a player-coach who has already set an example for the team’s young core with his relentless work ethic.

“LeBron is already in mid-season form,” Johnson, who won five championships as a player with Lakers in the 1980s, said at a press conference.

“He’s shooting fade aways and three pointers from almost half court,” he said.

“You’re sitting there saying man, ‘thank god we signed him’. It’s just beautiful to watch.”

Johnson said the Lakers, who have missed the playoffs for the last five seasons, will look to push the basketball up the court this season as they try to unseat the similarly speedy reigning champion Golden State Warriors.

“It’s going to be exciting because the pace will never stop,” he said.

“It’s going to be running, running and more running.”

James, 33, will be surrounded by 20-year-old Lonzo Ball, 22-year-old Kyle Kuzma and 23-year-Josh Hart.

He will also have the help of some savvy veterans including NBA champions Javale McGee and Rajon Rondo as well as the sharpshooting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Johnson said he especially hoped James’ influence would rub off on second-year point guard Ball.

The Lakers first pick in the 2017 draft was underwhelming in his rookie season but Johnson said he has been working hard during the offseason to improve his game and physique.

“He has been in the weight room because we asked him to get stronger,” said Johnson.

“He’s starting to understand that he has to be better. But he understood that right after the season,” he said.

The Lakers kick off their season on Oct. 18 with a visit to the Portland Trail Blazers before playing their first home game at the Staples Center against the Houston Rockets on Oct. 20.

Reporting by Rory Carroll, editing by Nick Mulvenney

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