LeBron James returned from injury with 26 points as the Los Angeles Lakers overcame a slow first half to defeat his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, 113-101 on Friday.

James had missed the Lakers' past two games with a sore ankle but marked his return by top scoring, adding eight assists and three rebounds.

The four-time MVP only shot 10 from 22 from the field and one from 10 from three-point range, draining a three-quarter time buzzer beater from almost halfway.

Carmelo Anthony added 24 points off the bench for the Lakers while Anthony Davis had 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists.

The Cavs, who have beaten contenders the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers this season, led by as much as 11 points at one stage, including holding a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.

James played a lead role in steadying the ship for the Lakers, who scored 25-16 in the fourth quarter to win by 12 points and improve their record to 3-3.

 

Harden finds his scoring touch

James Harden re-discovered some form with a season-high 29 points, including 21 in the first half, in the Brooklyn Nets' 105-98 win over the Indiana Pacers. LaMarcus Aldridge added 21 points off the bench to reach 20,000 career NBA points, while Kevin Durant dominated with 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Jimmy Butler starred with 32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while Bam Adebayo added 26 points and 19 rebounds as the Miami Heat downed the in-form Charlotte Hornets 114-99.

Damian Lillard hit five from seven three-pointers, finishing with 25 points as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 111-92. Paul George finished with 42 points for the Clippers, who are 1-3.

 

Doncic wayward as Mavs routed

Luka Doncic had an off-night, with 16 points, shooting five from 18 from the field as the Dallas Mavericks were brushed aside 106-75 by the Denver Nuggets.

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball's bright start to the season has stalled, managing only six points in their loss to the Heat, shooting none from five from beyond the arc.

LeBron James will return after two games out with an ankle issue when the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

Four-time NBA MVP James started the Lakers' first three games of the season, averaging 26.0 points in 38.0 minutes as his team made a rocky 1-2 start.

The 36-year-old injured his ankle in the Lakers' first win of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies and missed their subsequent games with the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, the latter which they lost by eight points after leading by 26 in the first half.

James was listed in the Lakers' starting line-up alongside Anthony Davis, who picked up a knee worry against the Spurs before playing 37 minutes and scoring 30 points against OKC.

Russell Westbrook, who had a triple-double but also 10 turnovers before being ejected against the Thunder, as well as Kurt Bazemore and DeAndre Jordan round out the Lakers' starting five.

James played just 45 games in the 2020-21 season as the Lakers failed to build on their 2020 Finals success with a first round playoffs exit to the Phoenix Suns.

The veteran forward played just 42.9 per cent of possible minutes for the Lakers in the regular season last year, the lowest rate of his career and only the second season in which he has dipped below the halfway mark – also 48.9 per cent in 2018-19, his first season as a Laker.

The Brooklyn Nets' stuttering start to the season continued with their third defeat in five games as they went down 106-93 at home to the Miami Heat.

Jimmy Butler starred for the Heat with a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds as well as seven assists and four steals as Miami improved their record to 3-1.

Bam Adebayo stole the show in the final quarter as the Nets threatened to overtake them, landing three big dunks to finish with 24 points and nine rebounds.

James Harden had some bright moments but only managed 14 points with seven rebounds and seven assists, while Kevin Durant had 25 points and 11 rebounds.

All three Nets defeats this season have been by double-digit margins as they continue to miss Kyrie Irving who is absent due to his vaccination status.

 

Giannis hits 40 in Bucks defeat

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 40 points but it was not enough as the Milwaukee Bucks suffered their second loss in their title defence 113-108 to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Antetokounmpo had 40 along with 16 rebounds and seven assists, while all five Timberwolves starters contributed strongly led by D'Angelo Russell (29 points, five rebounds and six assists) and Anthony Edwards (25 points, seven rebounds and three assists).

Harrison Barnes (22 points, nine rebounds and four assists) drained a turnaround triple on the buzzer to clinch the Sacramento Kings a 110-107 win over last season's the Phoenix Suns who had closed a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit late in the game, led by Devin Booker (31 points, six rebounds and eight assists).

The Cleveland Cavaliers added another impressive scalp to their list this season as they downed the Los Angeles Clippers 92-79 with Collin Sexton scoring 26 points.

 

Westbrook turnovers as Lakers lose

Russell Westbrook got his first Los Angeles Lakers triple-double but he also had 10 turnovers in their 123-115 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, with LeBron James absent due to an ankle injury.

LaMelo Ball struggled with only seven points, shooting three-from-14 from the field and only one-from-five beyond the arc as the Charlotte Hornets won 120-111 over the Orlando Magic.

Khris Middleton's three-point radar was off in the Bucks loss to the Timberwolves, shooting one-from-eight and contributing only 16 points, leaving Antetokounmpo with too much to do.

LeBron James will be missing again for the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday as he nurses a sore right ankle.

Four-time NBA MVP James started the Lakers' first three games of the season, averaging 26.0 points in 38.0 minutes as his team made a rocky 1-2 start.

But the 36-year-old suffered the injury in a first win of the year against the Memphis Grizzlies and was absent for Tuesday's overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs.

Malik Monk made his first Lakers start in James' place and scored 17 points.

The former Hornets guard, who only started one game in four years in Charlotte, is now set to be included in the line-up again versus the Oklahoma City Thunder with James officially ruled out.

The Lakers could also be without Anthony Davis, listed as questionable against the Thunder after hurting his knee against the Spurs.

These early injuries will concern LA, given James and Davis played just 45 and 36 games respectively in 2020-21 as the Lakers failed to build on their 2020 Finals success.

James played just 42.9 per cent of possible minutes for the Lakers in the regular season last year, the lowest rate of his career and only the second season in which he has dipped below the halfway mark – also 48.9 per cent in 2018-19, his first season as a Laker.

It was a high ankle sprain that caused James the most trouble, but coach Frank Vogel assured reporters this latest issue is not related.

"Same ankle, different spot, different injury," he said.

The Lakers will at least hope to be able to cope without their key men against the Thunder, who are facing a third 0-5 start in franchise history (also 2007-08, 1969-70).

OKC are 2-27 in their past 29 games dating back to last season, when they were swept by the Lakers.

Playing without the injured LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers saw their other two superstars step up in a 125-121 overtime defeat of the San Antonio Spurs. 

Anthony Davis had 35 points and 17 rebounds and Russell Westbrook contributed 33 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to carry the Lakers on the road. 

James injured his right ankle Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies but remained in the game. Though he entered the day listed as "probable" against the Spurs, coach Frank Vogel ruled him out before the game. 

Malik Monk got the start in James' place and finished with 17 points but the Lakers needed their big names to pull this one out. 

Los Angeles trailed by 12 in the fourth quarter before rallying to take the lead, but that momentum was halted when Davis went down late in the period with an apparent leg injury. 

Westbrook took control in overtime, though, and the Lakers will have to hope for good news on the injury front. 

Vogel said after the game that Davis banged knees with another player and his status for Wednesday's game at the Oklahoma City Thunder is unclear. 

 

Curry, Warriors rally to stay perfect 

The Golden State Warriors staged a second-half comeback to defeat Oklahoma City 106-98 and remain unbeaten while their opponents continue to search for their first victory of the season. The Thunder (0-4) led 74-64 with 4:15 remaining in the third quarter before Golden State (4-0) went on a 21-2 run to take control. Stephen Curry scored 23 points to lead the Warriors, while Andrew Wiggins had 21 and Damion Lee chipped in 20 off the bench. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 30 for Oklahoma City, who shot just 41.9 per cent from the field (36 of 86).

The Utah Jazz improved to 3-0 with a 122-110 home win over the Denver Nuggets, who lost reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic to a knee contusion late in the first half. Jokic led the Nuggets with 24 points despite playing only 15 minutes, while Rudy Gobert had 23 points and 16 rebounds for Utah. 

Luka Doncic had 26 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Dallas Mavericks past the Houston Rockets 116-106. 

 

Curry disappears as Sixers fall to Knicks

Two days after scoring 28 points in a Philadelphia victory, Seth Curry was held to just four as the 76ers fell 112-99 to the New York Knicks. Curry missed all four of his three-point attempts and attempted only six shots overall in 30 minutes. Joel Embiid also struggled, making only two of seven shots from the field on a 14-point night. 

The Los Angeles Lakers claimed their first win of the season after outlasting Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies 121-118 in the NBA on Sunday.

LeBron James and the Lakers had lost back-to-back games to open the 2021-22 campaign but finally had something to celebrate at home to the Grizzlies.

Anthony Davis posted 22 points and eight rebounds, while team-mate James finished with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Lakers (1-2).

But it was Lakers veteran Carmelo Anthony who led the way with 28 points (on 10-of-15 shooting) from the bench.

Anthony passed Moses Malone for ninth place on the all-time NBA leading scorers list.

Morant excelled with 40 points and 10 assists, but it was not enough for the Grizzlies (2-1), who lost for the first time.

 

 

Curry brothers star as Steph makes history

Stephen Curry was at it again to lead the Golden State Warriors to their first 3-0 start to a season since 2015 after a 119-107 victory against the Sacramento Kings. The two-time MVP put up 27 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals to fuel the unbeaten Warriors. With his fifth assist, Curry became the first player in franchise history to dish out 5,000 career assists.

The Philadelphia 76ers topped the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder 115-103. Seth Curry maintained his red-hot form, going seven-of-10 from three-point range for a team-high 28 points. Curry was six of seven from beyond the arc for 23 points in the opening quarter – a new career-high for a single period. He is the fourth 76ers player with at least 20 points in a quarter since 2010, joining Joel Embiid (four times), Jodie Meeks and Lou Williams. Embiid had 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists against the Thunder.

Jalen Green enjoyed a breakout game, despite the Houston Rockets going down 107-97 to the Boston Celtics. Green became the first rookie in Rockets history with 30-plus points and eight three-pointers in a game after finishing with 30 points – including eight threes, four rebounds and three assists.

The Charlotte Hornets are off to their first 3-0 start to the season thanks to a 111-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets behind Miles Bridges' 32 points. Kevin Durant led the Nets with 38 points in Brooklyn.

 

Harden struggles from the floor in Nets loss

James Harden was far from his best against Hornets, going just six-of-16 shooting from the field for 15 points in 33 minutes, while he also finished with eight turnovers.

Evan Fournier was three-of-11 shooting from the field – making just two of seven three-pointers – as the New York Knicks were stunned 110-104 by the Orlando Magic.

The Phoenix Suns soared to a 115-105 victory as LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers were condemned to back-to-back defeats to start the 2021-22 NBA season.

Chris Paul fuelled the Suns with 23 points and 14 rebounds in Los Angeles, where the Lakers were no match for last season's NBA Finals participants and fell to 0-2.

Paul became the first player in NBA history with 20,000 points and 10,000 assists.

Devin Booker (22 points) and Mikal Bridges (21 points) also impressed for the Suns, while double-doubles from Anthony Davis (22 points and 14 rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (15 points and 11 rebounds) were not enough for the Lakers.

James finished with 25 points in front of the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Justin Bieber at Staples Center.

The Lakers' woes were compounded by a row between team-mates Davis and Dwight Howard on the bench during the second quarter as the pair had to be separated.

 

 

Durant's Nets spoil 76ers' opener

The Philadelphia 76ers looked in control and on track for victory but they were upstaged 114-109 by Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Durant posted a triple-double of 29 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists as the Nets used a 16-1 run to stun the 76ers in their first home game of the season in Philadelphia. James Harden had 20 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge added 23 points off the bench on 10-of-12 shooting. Seth Curry made all four of this three-pointers to finish with 23 points, the same amount as 76ers team-mate Tobias Harris.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic showed why he was crowned the league's best player last season, scoring 32 points, collecting 16 rebounds and supplying seven assists in a 102-96 win against the San Antonio Spurs. It was his eighth 30/15/5 game, doubling the rest of the Nuggets franchise history combined.

The Chicago Bulls' new-look team improved to 2-0 thanks to a 128-112 triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans. Lonzo Ball inspired the win behind his triple-double (17 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds), while Zach LaVine (32 points) and DeMar DeRozan (26 points) also came up big.

The Utah Jazz stayed unbeaten courtesy of dominant displays from All-Star duo Donovan Mitchell (27 points) and Rudy Gobert (17 points and 20 assists) in the 110-101 road win at the Sacramento Kings.

Myles turner joined James, Harden, Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady as the only players in NBA history to score 40 points, 10 rebounds, five three-pointers and three blocks in a game. The Indiana Pacers still lost 135-134 to the Washington Wizards in overtime.

 

Celtics lose again

The Boston Celtics were booed off the court at half-time and throughout the second half in their 115-83 defeat against the Toronto Raptors. Jaylen Brown was three-for-13 shooting for nine points and five turnovers, while Marcus Smart ended the game scoreless on 0-for-six shooting in 29 minutes as the Celtics fell to 0-2.

LeBron James says he is "not worried at all" about Russell Westbrook after he suffered first-game jitters in a losing Los Angeles Lakers debut on the opening night of the NBA season.

Westbrook cut a disconsolate figure following a tough bow as Stephen Curry inspired the Golden State Warriors to a 121-114 victory at Staples Center on Tuesday.

Nine-time NBA All-Star Westbrook finished with only eight points, five rebounds, four assists and four turnovers in a debut that did not go to plan.

James, who got his season under way with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, has no concerns about Westbrook following such a disappointing bow for the 2017 MVP.

"I think it was just first-game jitters. I don't put too much into it," James said of Westbrook's performance. 

"There was a lot going through his mind, being a kid from LA and watching the Lakers growing up, then however many years down the road now you're putting on a Laker uniform, you're stepping into Staples Center.

"I can only imagine how many friends and family have contacted him in the last 48 hours wondering if they can come and see his first game as a Laker. Those demands will quieten down as the season goes on, so I'm not worried about Russ at all. He just needs to worry about himself and not worry about the outcome."

James revealed he told Westbrook not to dwell on his below-par display.

He said: "I told Russ just don't be so hard on yourself, it's one game. That's the one thing I tried to get through to him. Go home and see the three babies that he has.

"They might be asleep, but it will put a smile on his face. He can go home and see a beautiful wife and family and realise it's not that bad."

Curry put up a triple-double of 21 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds in a great start to the campaign for the Warriors.

Stephen Curry may have produced his eighth career triple-double and first since 2016 but he says he "played like trash" in Tuesday's NBA season-opening 121-114 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Curry's Golden State Warriors made a statement as they stunned the Lakers, with the star point guard contributing 21 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals.

The two-time NBA MVP only managed five-from-21 from the field, shooting at 23.8 per cent, with nine of his points coming from the stripe.

"I played like trash, shot the ball terribly," Curry told ESPN after the game.

The Warriors turned in a 38-29 final quarter to claim the win, scoring 46 points in the paint for the game, compared to the Lakers' 34.

Golden State had a good spread of contributors, while the Lakers relied on LeBron James (34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists) and Anthony Davis (33 points, 11 rebounds and two assists), as Russell Westbrook battled on debut, finishing with eight points, five rebounds and four assists.

Curry added: "If we can win a game like that, where we create some good shots and stick with it defensively, against a pretty good team, that is a pretty good omen.

"We've got to learn from our mistakes, quit turning the ball over, make more shots, we'll be good.

"This is a good feeling. We had a lot of excitement coming into the season. New cast of characters mixed with our core. We weathered the storm tonight."

New Warriors additions Nemanja Bjelica, Andre Igoudala, Otto Porter Jr and Moses Moody all got minutes and contributed. Bjelica added 15 points and 11 rebounds from 26 minutes, while veteran forward Igoudala scored 12 points from 23 minutes.

Jordan Poole also stepped into the starting line-up to score 20 points, including 16 in the second half, and Curry was bullish that the team would continue to gel as they get into the season.

"That's what early season is all about," Curry said. "Obviously there was a lot of hype about this game. We want to be in a playoff-like atmosphere like this.

"We have a lot to learn and grow. Our chemistry is solid, in terms of what we're trying to do. When you have to go execute it, it's a different animal. I like learning lessons in wins."

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors spoiled the party as they stunned LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers 121-114 on the opening night of the 2021-22 NBA season, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks started with a bang.

A star-studded crowd was in attendance to watch Curry and James go head-to-head in the season opener at Staples Center, with likes of Justin Bieber, Kevin Hart and Usher watching courtside.

Looking to bounce back from last season's first-round playoff exit as they were eventually dethroned by the Bucks, James and the Lakers were outlasted in Los Angeles, where Russell Westbrook endured a rough debut.

Despite double-doubles from James (34 points and 11 rebounds) and Anthony Davis (33 points and 11 rebounds), the Lakers were no match for the Warriors and Curry – who put up a triple-double of 21 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

It was Curry's eighth career triple-double, while Jordan Poole added 20 points as the visiting Warriors and their bench outscored the Lakers' role players 55-29.

 

Giannis fuels Bucks

The Bucks unveiled their championship banner, rings and crushed Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets 127-104 behind Giannis Antetokounmpo's 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in the league's season-opening matchup. Khris Middleton contributed 20 points and nine rebounds on a memorable night in Milwaukee, where the Bucks won the Eastern Conference semi-final rematch.

While the Nets were blown away on the road, Kevin Durant produced again with 32 points and 11 rebounds. The former MVP has scored at least 25 points in 11 consecutive games against the Bucks, equalling the feat achieved by James (from 2011 to 2013).

Nets recruit Patty Mills (21 points on seven-for-seven shooting from beyond the arc) tied the NBA record for most made threes on debut for a new team, while James Harden (20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists) flirted with a triple-double.

 

Westbrook's woes, Harris behind Brooklyn's struggles?

All eyes were on Westbrook following his return to California and move to the Lakers. But the former MVP failed to impress, however. In 35 minutes, Westbrook was only four-for-13 shooting for eight points, while he had five rebounds and four assists to go with four turnovers.

The Nets went 24-4 (85.7) last season when Joe Harris scored at least 15 points – best in the NBA (minimum 25 games). Harris had the fourth-most games in the NBA with a positive plus/minus, behind only Rudy Gobert, MVP Nikola Jokic and Royce O'Neale. So based on that pre-game fact, it is no surprise the Nets lost after Harris was far from his best in Milwaukee. The 2019 NBA Three-Point Contest champion finished with just nine points on three-for-nine shooting in 31 minutes.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James insisted reducing his workload will not prevent injuries as he prepares for his 19th NBA season.

James endured a frustrating 2020-21 campaign after the four-time champion and MVP missed 27 games due to injury, while averaging the fewest minutes per game (33.4) of his illustrious career.

The Lakers were also dethroned as champions, having bowed out of the playoffs in the opening round.

James and the Lakers open their season against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday, and the 36-year-old is not prepared to protect his body from potential harm.

"I don't play the game thinking about injuries," James told reporters on Monday.

"And I also feel worse when I play low minutes."

James averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game last season, while his field-goal (51.3) and three-point (36.5) percentages were his best since 2017-18.

The Lakers veteran (35,367) is third on the all-time scoring list, behind Karl Malone (36,928) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – James still needs 3,020 points to break the record.

"It took a while," James said of his ankle injury. "I didn't do much basketball stuff for probably the first two months of the summer, which is very rare for me, because my ankle wasn't responding how I would like it to respond.

"And the best thing about the summertime was I had time. I had time to just really get ready when my ankle was ready to go. I was always training, just wasn't on the basketball court much.

"Always doing other stuff, training, pushing, seeing if I could do other stuff with my ankle, and until I got to a point where I didn't feel any sharp pains anymore, and my flexibility was back to where it was before. That's when I knew I could get back on the floor."

Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry has praised LeBron James for his longevity and pushing him to sustain his prime for as long as he can.

Curry and James are set to face off on the opening night of the 2021-22 NBA season when the Golden State Warriors meet the Los Angeles Lakers on October 19.

Four-time NBA MVP and four-time NBA champion James enters his 18th NBA season with the Lakers among the favourites for the title.

Despite being 36-years-old, James remains a key part for the Lakers, who won the NBA in 2020, before bowing out in the first round of the 2021 play-offs.

Curry praised 17-time All-Star James for maintaining his high levels throughout an extended period, when the pair have arguably been the league's best players.

"He set the standard for that," Curry told reporters on Friday. "Let's keep it real – in his 18th year, nine straight Finals, all the things that he's accomplished.

"You have a vision of sustaining your prime for as long as you can, kind of re-imagining what that looks like. The work that goes into it, the intentionality, especially in the off-seasons, especially how you take care of your body, your mind. Balance on court, off court."

The Lakers forward had an injury-interrupted 2020-21 season, averaging 25.0 points,7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game, having boasted a career-best 10.2 assists per game in the side's title-winning 2019-20 season. He has averaged 25.0 points per game or more since his debut season in 2003-04 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James is four years Curry's senior, with the 2003 NBA Draft first pick having claimed one more NBA title across his career than the Warriors point guard who debuted in 2009.

"For me, it's a weird perspective just because I still remember my college days and he was just coming into his prime in the league," Curry said.

"And my sophomore year, [NCAA] tournament run he came to a game, then came to a game my junior year. I still have a jersey that he signed back in '08 in my parents' house back in Charlotte. So it's kind of weird to think about what's happened in the last 13, 14 years.

"Hopefully there's more chapters of that, playing at that prime. Re-imagining and extending your prime and playing at a high level for a long time looks like."

Curry, who only played five games in the 2019-20 season due to injury, topped the NBA last season for points per game, at 32.0.

The 33-year-old's 32.0 points per game was a career-best return, while he also averaged 5.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

"I love exactly where I'm at," Curry said ahead of the new season. "I'm planning to be ready for opening night.

"Body feels good, mind feels good, shot feels strong. I'm not pacing myself but I'm being smart about how I approach preseason games."

Russell Westbrook said LeBron James knows what it takes to win in the NBA as the Los Angeles Lakers recruit attempts to claim his first championship.

Westbrook and James will team up in Los Angeles after the former joined his hometown team following a trade from the Washington Wizards.

A nine-time All-Star and former MVP, Westbrook has a long list of honours in the NBA but the 32-year-old is still searching for his maiden ring.

Westbrook, though, is excited to join forces with four-time champion James at Staples Center, having tasted defeat in the 2012 NBA Finals when the Oklahoma City Thunder lost to the latter's Miami Heat.

"LeBron out of anybody else, he knows what it takes to win a championship," Westbrook told ESPN.

"My understanding of the commitment, understanding the sacrifices that we are both going to have to make, including myself and [Anthony Davis] as well for the betterment on the team, and finding ways to be able to win a championship.

"And that's the ultimate goal. So anything along the way we, we cannot get distracted, cannot get the deterred from our ultimate goal."

Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.7 assists and 11.5 rebounds with the Wizards last season.

On playing alongside James in LA, Westbrook – a dominant ballhandler – added: "It was going to work."

"When you get a chance to play against one of the greatest players of all time and consistently, it helps my game," Westbrook said.

"It helps my preparation, makes me focus more on the things I need to focus on to get to a point where I can sit down and say, 'I've accomplished everything I can accomplish in this league and now I'm lucky enough to be able to play alongside him.' So I'm looking forward to that, looking forward to the things we can accomplish here together this season."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said he retains a "burning desire to win trophies" in an ominous sign ahead of the upcoming 2021-22 NBA season.

James is entering his 19th season aged 36 and following an underwhelming 2020-21 campaign, which saw the Lakers dethroned after bowing out of the playoffs in the opening round.

The four-time NBA champion and MVP missed 27 games last season due to injury and averaged the fewest minutes per game (33.4) of his illustrious career.

James averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game last term, while his field-goal (51.3) and three-point (36.5) percentages were his best since 2017-18.

Gearing up for another run, James insisted he is feeling great, having overcome injuries in his quest for a fifth championship ring.

"I still have a burning desire inside of me to want to continue win, hopefully I can bring some trophies at the end of the season," James told ESPN, with the season due to get underway next month.

"That's always been my goal. I love the process more than anything. Hopefully I can put myself in a position where I can do that at the end of the season.

He added: "I'm just a guy who is very determined, who is willing to do whatever it takes for his body to be in the best shape possible to dominate at a high level.

"I'm not afraid to get uncomfortable with anything to get in the best possible shape I can be in."

The Lakers' roster has vastly changed since last season, with Alex Caruso, Dennis Schroder, Andre Drummond, Markieff Morris, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma among those to exit.

Los Angeles have added NBA veterans Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo along with former MVP Russell Westbrook.

Nine-time All Star Westbrook, who turns 33 in November, led the NBA in assists last season and broke Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson's all-time triple-double record in May.

"Right away he ups our pace," James said. "He's always in the top five as far as pace, being able to get out on the break, able to get some early buckets before the defense is set.

"He's also a flat-out playmaker. A lot of people don’t talk about how unbelievable a passer he is. Everyone sees the rebounds and the scoring but how his passing makes other guys run and better doesn't get talked about a lot. We all look forward dot that as team-mates."

James (35,367) sits third on the NBA's all-time scoring charts, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928) ahead of the new season.

The 17-time All-Star refused to get drawn into the current NBA debate around COVID-19 vaccinations, which has sparked with the likes of Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving and Golden State Warriors small forward Andrew Wiggins set to miss home matches due to their refusal to get the vaccine under local state rules.

"I can only speak about myself, everyone has their own choice… I was very sceptical, but after doing my research I felt like it was best suited for myself, my family and my friends," he told reporters on Tuesday. "That's why I decided to do it."

LeBron James and the possibility of the Los Angeles Lakers superstar becoming the NBA's all-time scoring leader excites current recordholder Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Abdul-Jabbar sits atop the throne for most points in the NBA with 38,387 following a Hall of Fame career that featured six championships, six MVP awards and 19 All-Star selections among other honours during his time with the Milwaukee Bucks and Lakers.

James (35,367) is third on the all-time list entering his 19th season, behind Karl Malone (36,928) and Abdul-Jabbar – the four-time champion and four-time MVP still needs 3,020 points to break the record.

Abdul-Jabbar, who spent 14 years with the Lakers from 1975 to 1989 before returning as an assistant coach between 2005 and 2011, was asked about James' pursuit of history.

"I'm excited to see it happen," Abdul-Jabbar, 74, told Marc Stein in his substack newsletter. "I don't see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements.

"If one person can do something that's never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It's a source of hope and inspiration.

"Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less.

"We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on."

James and the Lakers were unable to defend their NBA title in 2020-21 as they crashed out in the first round of the playoffs.

The 36-year-old James averaged 25.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game last season.

James' field-goal (51.3) and three-point (36.5) percentages were his best since 2017-18.

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