On Monday, in tandem with the opening of his new I Promise School in Akron, LeBron James gave an in-depth interview.
In this interview (which touched on many different subjects) LeBron offered up a defense of his new teammates, which includes a group of names with dubious reps, including Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, Michael Beasley, Rajon Rondo, and Lonzo Ball (which means his dad, by extension).
More specifically, interviewer Rachel Nichols asked "Now [that] the Lakers have signed other free agents that have raised some eyebrows -- you have a guy who's a "Shaqtin' a Fool" MVP, you have a guy who wears wrist watches on his ankles, you have someone who likes to blow in other players' ears including yours. Why should people not be skeptical of this roster?"
LeBron was not down on his teammates, yet. Though we should remember to check again around, say, January.
"[Because] we got guys who love to play basketball," he said. "And that's what they do every single day. I love that, and I think Pelinka and Magic love that as well. And that's why they made the signings. Bringing Lance [Stephenson] and JaVale [McGee] and [Michael Beasley] and [Rajon] Rondo -- guys that every day they wake up they're thinkin' about the game of basketball. Everything else is secondary. So we look forward to all the challenges and, I mean, eyebrows is always gonna get raised when my name is involved anyway, so it shouldn't even be a surprise."
He also talked about how he ultimately decided on the Lakers, which is a subject that's unsurprisingly been discussed over the past four weeks. To that, he admitted that he carefully considered the 76ers and Rockets, before ultimately joining one of sports' historical franchises:
"I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid, or lining up alongside [James] Harden and Chris [Paul]," LeBron said. "I just felt like at this point in my career, the ultimate for me -- just like when I went to Miami, everyone kind of looks at me joining a superteam, but if people look at it, I think Miami was [47-35] the year before I joined that team and you can look at the Lakers' record -- so I like the challenge of being able to help a team get to some place they haven't been in quite a while."
James continued: "Obviously the Lakers haven't made the playoffs in a few years, but the Lakers organization and the historical franchise matches up there with all the greats -- you can look at the Cowboys, and you can look at the Patriots, you can look at Manchester United, the Boston Celtics -- these are historical franchises and for me to be a part of that, I think it's a great move for not only me but for my family and for the history of basketball in general."
RN: When you look at that roster though, you're the only All-Star on there. You could have told the Lakers, "Hey I'd be willing to come, but please do what it takes to get Kawhi Leonard here too." Why didn't you want to do that?
LJ: Because I love the young guys that they have, and I'm not trying to force my hand in no way, shape or form. I believe Rob [Pelinka] and Magic [Johnson] and Jeanie [Buss] have done an unbelievable job of reshaping what the organization should be, keeping Dr. Buss' dreams and what he was all about, to keep that going. I feel like they know what's best for the team and I wanted to be a piece to continue that motion of being back to a championship franchise where they should be.
James also dismissed the notion that he would spend one of the last season's of his prime on what amounts to a (re)building year.
"I don't even look at it like that, 'cause I don't feel like this is one of the last years of my prime," he said. "I think that's another statistic number, and I've always been a part of beating the odds in life. Being around my kids allow -- it gives me even more and more time in my youth. I don't feel like this is even a rebuilding year for us. We have an opportunity to do something that a lot of people don't think we can do. And we love the notion of, "it's another rebuilding year and we don't have enough." So that will motivate the guys that we have anyway."
Finally he said that the goal is to make the Finals within the next four years (a.k.a. the duration of his deal) which frankly is probably more contingent upon the Warriors keeping the current team together (and free from injury/poor aging) than anything else. That exchange was fairly standard, but still here it is anyway:
RN: And you've made a long-time commitment to these guys, a four-year contract. How confident are you that sometime in this four years you will be in the Finals again? You could win another championship?
LJ: That's the goal.
RN: That's not the question.
LJ: Listen, I plan and I train and I set my mind every single day to play for championships. And Magic and Jeanie and Rob, they believe the same thing. So when you're around people who have the same goal in mind, you can live with the result.
You can read the whole thing over at ESPN, if you so desire.