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Los Angeles Lakers Media Day; Ball’s new shot and veteran leadership

The Los Angeles Lakers have been by far the most followed team ever since the signing of LeBron James in July. Since then, they have added so many journeyed veterans including Rajon Rondo, Lance Stevenson and JaVale McGee to accompany a team loaded with talented young players. On Aug. 24, the fans and media were able to finally get their first glance at the new look Lakers.

Obviously, the most anticipated media day interview came from James. In a team with several new players and a still very young core, there is much debate as to whether the team will be able to mesh. But James has no fear that the team will find a way to click.

“My game does not change no matter who I’m alongside,” James said. “I believe my game can fit with anybody.

He expressed that he does not feel the pressure of winning after the move to one of the biggest markets in the league. James also offered much praise for his new teammates, including his former rival Rondo and Lonzo Ball, who he has been showing support for since his entrance into the league.

Second-year player and new dad Ball is coming off a meniscus injury he sustained last season. In July, he underwent surgery and on Monday, he confirmed that he has been cleared to play. Still, he has to work his way back into full scrimmaging and likely will not play in the preseason. Ball is excited to be playing alongside the “best player in the world” as well as many of the other new faces, including Rondo who he has looked up to from an early age. Because of his injury, Ball has been forced to develop in different ways this past offseason as has utilized the veteran leadership to help better his game and basketball IQ.

“This summer was the first time I couldn’t play basketball,” Ball said. “So, I definitely had a lot more time in the weight room, a lot of time in the film room. Just doing everything other than playing basketball pretty much to help myself going forward. Guys like [James], guys like Rondo and obviously [Johnson] helped me out along the way.”

There have also been many rumors that he has completely altered the mechanics of his iconic shooting form. But he quickly played those rumors down. He explained that the only change is due to the strength he gained during the offseason. Now his shot is slightly more centered, as he does not have to launch the ball as much from the left side of his body anymore.

Rondo, who has been a starter for the vast majority of his career, is someone who is expected to serve as more of a veteran presence and backup to Ball.

“I’m just here to bring what I can to the team,” Rondo said. “The intangibles, obviously be a leader, hold guys accountable and bring a championship mentality.”

He understands that he will have to the opportunity to help coach the up-and-coming young Laker players. He compares his mentor-mentee relationship with Ball to his first two years in the league when he was under the Sam Cassell.

Kyle Kuzma was arguably the biggest positive for the Lakers last year, as he came from relative anonymity to stardom in a span of a few months. Teammate Josh Hart said that he has never seen a player improve as much in a single offseason the way he has seen Kuzma develop his game. Kuzma excelled at so much last season, but his focus this offseason was to specifically work on what he struggled with the most.

“The knock on me last year was defense. Not every rookie can come in and be perfect so that’s just one area that I really wanted to fine tune.”

He believes that the high level of competition he is playing against every day in practice is allowing him to take his game to the next level on the court and grow so much mentally. Kuzma is also excited for the young core group to really take stride this season and further establish themselves this season.

With a team that has so much diversity in experience, age, leadership and skill, it may take a while for them to click. But it is clear that the players are fully invested in this team. The younger guys are eager to learn and the older players are willing to share their knowledge. Lakers fans have not seen winning basketball for a while now, but once every player finds their niche on the team, this Lakers team will be dangerous.


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