LeBron James has adapted to a shifting world, setting the tone for the Lakers

first_img Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with Packers“Everyone keeps asking how is the bubble or how is it going, and I just say ‘It’s 2020,’” he said. “Nothing is normal in 2020. Nothing seems as is, and who knows if it will ever go back to the way it was. But you make the adjustments and you figure it out along the way, that’s what life is all about.”James, 35, is still the NBA’s most influential player, and throughout a turbulent hiatus where many factors — most notably the spread of COVID-19 — felt out of the NBA’s hands, James loudly voiced a contingent of players who wanted to finish the season. And now that the Lakers are in Walt Disney World, without two important pieces but still among the favorites, the team is taking their cues from him as closely as ever.For James, the hiatus was the first time his life slowed down since his freshman year in high school, when he first came to prominence and began traveling the country for AAU. In the two decades since, he’s never stayed in one place for a few months at a time. He filled the hours of the suspended season with games with his sons and time with his wife, he said, which he had never had a lot of time to savor before.The thing he missed, too, was family: His mother Gloria James, who raised him on her own, chose to remain in Akron as states began locking down. He didn’t see her from All-Star Weekend in February until June, he said — the longest he’s gone in his life without seeing her.“That was extreme for me … coming from a single parent household, being an only child, my mother was 16 when she had me — for me to be away from her that long,” he said. “My mom, she kept me sane, because she said, ‘In due time we’ll join back again.’” LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. >> The day before the season shut down for four months, LeBron James stood 6-to-8 feet from a crowd of reporters lined behind improvised barriers. He teased about the then-new social distancing protocols, put into effect in hopes of staving off the coronavirus.“I miss you guys being right here,” he gestured with his hands. “Like right around here in my bubble.”Monday was the first day since then that James had reporters in his bubble, spaced apart and all wearing masks after completing quarantine at Disney World. James’ beard was bushier, with patches of gray creeping in along the fringes. He looked leaner than that day in March, and feet away from him in The Arena at Wide World of Sports in Walt Disney World, the NBA was still constructing the game-day atmosphere for a venue that will be nearly devoid of spectators when basketball tips off again next week.Dramatic, difficult and nearly unimaginable change has been the theme of the year, James said, but he’s been ready to adapt. While the Lakers are among the teams that have taken hits to their depth, but the NBA bubble has largely gone to plan at this point: The league and the NBPA have only disclosed two cases of COVID-19 that were both caught in quarantine. The wide hope is that the league can pull off its restart without a significant outbreak through its safety protocols.The threat of coronavirus looms over the entire event. But James said he takes each day in stride, rather than worry about the threats that may come to pass. Based on the year so far, he’s chosen to try to control what he can.“‘I don’t wake up in the morning saying, ‘OK (the bubble) may not work.’” he said. “I don’t approach it that way. I woke up this morning thinking about my family, one, and then thinking about how I was going to impact practice today and help us get better. That’s it.” How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years The bubble, James said cheerfully, feels like “a big ol’ AAU tournament for grown men.” Teammates and competitors alike have observed that James, whose celebrity restricts him in some instances from normal life pursuits, has found a sense of ease in an environment with just NBA personnel. James said the four months with his family helped offset some of the sacrifice he’s making now: The Lakers are hoping to run to the Finals, which would take through at least early October, and player families aren’t expected to join until possibly September.Loss has also become a difficult theme of the year: James reflected on the death of Civil Rights activist and politician John Lewis, who he called a “legend” who taught the value of “good, positive conflict that can create change.” He also said the loss of Kobe Bryant, who died in January, still hangs heavy with the franchise.“A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think about him,” he said. “And a day doesn’t go by when our organization does not remember him and think about not only (Kobe), but Gigi, Vanessa and the girls. They’re a part of this family, just as big as anybody in this organization’s history. So, we still wear 24 and 8 and the No. 2 with pride and with remembrance of how great they were.”The Lakers are edging closer to competitive play: They’re scheduled for a scrimmage against the Mavericks on Thursday night. James said his games with his sons helped fulfill his desire for competition, but he still missed the NBA game.Competition isn’t just about the scoreboard: Reports recently acknowledged that the season-long awards will be judged on only the first portion of the season that ended March 11. Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is widely expected to win his second straight league MVP honor, but Frank Vogel stumped for James as the clear MVP: “Nobody impacts winning more than LeBron James,” he said.James didn’t directly advocate his candidacy, but also said he thought he had disproved a significant claim against him that he long benefited from tearing up a weaker Eastern Conference.“There was a lot of conversation about LeBron can do those things in the East but if he ever came to the West what could he do?” he said with a laugh. “So I heard all of that. To be able to have our team at the top of the Western Conference and playing the way that we were playing at that time and the way I was playing, it’s definitely a good feeling.”Related Articlescenter_img Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img