EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Reuters) - Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James said on Monday his new team has a long way to go before they can dethrone the reigning champion Golden State Warriors but added that he will be excited to get started when training camp kicks off this week.
Donning the iconic gold and purple Lakers jersey, the 33-year-old told reporters that just because he has been to eight consecutive NBA Finals does not mean his squad was destined to represent the Western Conference in the Finals this year.
“We’ve got a long way to go to catch Golden State,” he said of the Oakland-based Warriors, who have defeated the James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in three of the last four NBA Finals, with the Cavs getting some revenge by winning the 2015-16 title.
“They can pick up right where they left off... we’re picking up from scratch,” the three-time NBA champion told a news conference at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo.
“We can only focus on what we can do to get better every day as a Lakers franchise and hopefully someday we can put ourselves in a position where we can compete for a championship as Golden State has done for the last few years.”
James will join a young core group of players that includes 20-year-old Lonzo Ball and 23-year-olds Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart as well as savvy veterans Javale McGee and Rajon Rondo, who like James signed with the Lakers in the offseason.
James’ left Cleveland in July after signing a four-year, $154 million which gives new life to the Lakers, a storied franchise that dominated for periods of the 1980s and 2000s but missed the playoffs in the last five seasons.
James, who is widely considered the best player of his generation, is expected to take on the role of a player-coach on the court, but also said he was eager to improve his own game.
“No matter where I am at in my career, I’m always at a point where I want to learn and get things from team mates and coaches,” he said.
“So I’m looking forward to seeing what we can all bring to the table and how we can all bounce ideas off one another to better our games.”
James bristled at the suggestion he may be spreading himself too thin with the many entertainment projects his SpringHill Entertainment production company is involved with and his starring role in the long-anticipated Space Jam movie.
“I’m a basketball player first. I play ball. That’s what I do, that’s what I live by,” he said.
“When I do it at the level I do it at everything else will take care of itself. As far as my businesses, those things were taking care of themselves way before I even came out here to be part of the Lakers franchise.”
The Lakers kick off their season on Oct. 18 with a visit to the Portland Trail Blazers before playing their first home game against the Houston Rockets at the Staples Center on Oct. 20.
Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Ken Ferris