Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and LeBron James talk tactics.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and LeBron James talk tactics.

LeBron makes instant impact with Lakers

LEBRON James rubbed his hands in chalk powder at the scorer's table, yelled "Yes!" to ecstatic fans in the first few rows and the Los Angeles Lakers' new era was underway.

Playing in the same arena where Magic Johnson made his regular-season debut for Los Angeles 39 years ago, James captivated the crowd from the start of the Lakers' exhibition opener Sunday night, a 124-107 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

The opening tip came James' way and he tapped it to fellow newcomer Rajon Rondo, who threw an alley-oop pass to JaVale McGee for the game's first score.

James missed his first shot, a turnaround fadeaway, but then made a no-look bounce pass from about 27 feet out to Brandon Ingram for a dunk.

A minute later, James hit a long three-pointer.

The LeBron James era has started in Los Angeles.
The LeBron James era has started in Los Angeles.

He finished with nine points, three rebounds and four assists in just more than 15 minutes.

Lakers fans hope James' arrival will turn things around after the worst five years in the franchise's lengthy history.

He left the Cleveland Cavaliers for a four-year, $208 million ($US153.3m) free-agent deal with the Lakers.

He, Rondo and fellow veterans McGee, Lance Stephenson and Michael Beasley signed to team with the Lakers' talented young core.

James was the focus on and off the court Sunday night.

He was cheered from the minute he ran onto the court with his new teammates for warm-ups. He played the first eight minutes before being subbed out. When he came back in midway through the second quarter, he was greeted by cheers.

As he stood near the scorer's table during a video review, a fan yelled: "LeBron, we love you!" and the superstar responded with a hang-loose sign.

Asked before the game what stands out about James, coach Luke Walton said, "His intelligence. He sees everything. He knows even before drills. He knows where he's going. His work ethic. He's out there pre-practice with the guys, post- practice with the guys. Taking care of his body in the weight room.

"He's the ultimate professional."

The Lakers' regular-season opener is October 18 at Portland. Their home opener is two nights later against Houston.



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