PORTLAND, Ore. — With the Los Angeles Lakers preparing to play their first game since news emerged of coach Luke Walton’s heated meeting with president of basketball of operations Magic Johnson, LeBron James said his focus — and his team’s — remains solely on winning.
“It doesn’t bother me at all because I don’t pay attention to it, I don’t listen to it,” James said Saturday in advance of the Lakers’ game against the Portland Trail Blazers, when asked about the noise surrounding his team a day after ESPN broke details of the meeting in which Johnson was critical of Walton for his early-season decisions.
“It actually never even gets to me really, so it’s not a big deal for us,” James continued. “We need to figure out how we can string together some great games or even good games and bring our win total from where it is now. Because that’s the business we’re in. That’s the only thing we want to do. We want to be as good a team as we can be and win ballgames.”
L.A. opened the season in Portland just over two weeks ago and has been on a roller-coaster ride ever since, starting 0-3,winning two in a row, then losing two in a row, prompting the Johnson-Walton session after seven games.
The Lakers narrowly won their eighth game 114-113 over the struggling Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, temporarily alleviating the pressure building for a team that has expectations to win sooner than later from Johnson and team management.
While a 3-5 record isn’t up to James’ championship standards either, he cited growth in his group since opening night.
“We’re still in the real early stages,” James said. “But we are much more of a unit today than we were two weeks ago. So I think we’ll be even better two weeks from now, and two weeks from then.
“I think every game, every road trip, every film session, every day that we’re together is going to continue to get us more and more familiar with one another. You just have to learn each other and know what to expect out of one another, how to challenge each other.”
Portland, meanwhile, has the third-best record in the Western Conference at 6-2 and has won three games in a row with Damian Lillard leading the way averaging 29.1 points per game, second most in the league.
“Portland in my opinion is playing as well as anyone in the league,” Walton said at Saturday’s shootaround. “Their second unit is really causing issues for people, and they’ve got two great closers, so it’s going to be a great challenge. …
“Comparing it to the first game of the season will be nice… there will be some information gained.”
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