LeBron James is delighted to see fans back in the building despite getting into an altercation with spectators sitting courtside during the Los Angeles Lakers' road win at the Atlanta Hawks.

ESPN reported four people were ejected by the Hawks following the incident late in the fourth quarter of the Lakers' 107-99 victory at State Farm Arena.

A woman later posted on social media claiming she got involved after her husband and James exchanged words. Cameras showed a woman involved in the argument with her mask pulled below her chin, something not allowed with rules in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Referees halted the game and security personnel were called over, but James looked to cool the incident when talking after the contest, which was attended by 1,341 fans.

"At the end of the day, I'm happy fans are back in the building," said James.

"I miss that interaction. I need that interaction, we as players need that interaction. I don't feel like it was warranted to be kicked out."

James, who had 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, suggested alcohol may have been an influence in the incident.

He added: "They might have had a couple drinks, maybe and they could have probably kept it going during the game, and the game wouldn't have been about the game no more, so I think the referees did what they had to do.

"I love our fans. Laker Nation and everybody else that's against Laker Nation. It just feels better.

"Fans in the stands is just, it's just better. It's better for everybody. Especially on the last game of a 14-day road trip."

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel suggested the incident perhaps exposed a problem with having fans in attendance, especially when the woman lowered her mask.

"It certainly exposed something with regard to having fans in the pandemic," Vogel said.

"You obviously can't have fans taking their masks down and shouting at our players with the virus out there during these times."

Anthony Davis concurred but like James is happy to see fans back.

"With COVID going on, we obviously can't have that [masks being pulled down]. We want to make sure we all can be safe," Davis said.

"We love having fans at the game. Whether we're home or away, it just brings back the game that we love, that joy from the fans and the support.

"Whether it's 500 people or 1,000, 1,500, whatever it is, it's always enjoyable to play in front of a crowd."

Los Angeles Lakers pair LeBron James and Anthony Davis are questionable for Monday's clash with the Atlanta Hawks.

James is listed with a left ankle sprain, while team-mate Davis has a right quadriceps contusion, according to the NBA champions.

Lakers superstar James posted 21 points in Saturday's 96-95 win over the Boston Celtics as Davis led the way with a 27-point, 14-rebound double-double.

James has been averaging 25.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game for the Lakers.

Davis, meanwhile, is averaging 22.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists.

The Lakers (15-6) sit third in the Western Conference, behind city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers (16-5) and Utah Jazz (15-5).

Anthony Davis said the Los Angeles Lakers got a "little revenge" with their 96-95 win over the Boston Celtics in the NBA on Saturday.

Davis had a double-double of 27 points and 14 rebounds as the Lakers responded after back-to-back losses.

The Lakers seemingly had not forgotten their most recent visit to TD Garden, where they were thrashed by the Celtics 139-107 in January last year.

Davis said while the Lakers (15-6) wanted to return to winning ways, some revenge was also on their minds.

"Just trying to get back in the win column. We're a team that takes pride in not losing two in a row and we lost two in a row and we for damn sure wasn't losing three in a row," he told ESPN.

"We've got a little revenge with this team. They came in last year and beat us by 30 last time we were in this building so we're still replaying all the moments in our head.

"But we just want to be a team that don't get comfortable with losing and I think everybody had a great effort and we were able to get the win."

LeBron James finished with 21 points for the Lakers, who almost slumped to a third straight defeat.

The Celtics forced a turnover with seconds remaining, but Kemba Walker missed a jumper and Daniel Theis a lay-up on the buzzer.

Davis led the way for the Lakers despite going four-of-seven from the free-throw line.

"Come out and be aggressive. My team looked for me to be aggressive on both ends of the floor, on the glass, and that's what I tried to do," he said.

"Just going back to the old AD, playing with a lot of energy, letting the team feed off of me and just playing great basketball, making shots, still struggling from the line but I'm going to keep going, get fouled, going to the line.

"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive, I was able to do that and help us get the win."

LeBron James said he was not fuelled by his MVP snub as he scored a season-high 34 points in a Los Angeles Lakers victory over Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks.

James also provided eight assists and claimed six rebounds in a 113-106 win for the NBA Western Conference leaders on Thursday.

Antetokounmpo, the NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year winner last season, finished with a 25-point haul but could not prevent the Bucks - third in the Eastern Conference - from slipping to 9-6.

Superstar James dismissed a suggestion he may have been out to prove a point after missing out on the MVP award last year, as the Lakers extended their franchise away record to eight consecutive wins on the road to start the season.

He told reporters: "I think you know me. I think all of you guys know me. It's never been about individual.

"It's all about the team success and that's all that matters. I can care less about that. I just try to play well and help our team win versus any opponent and that’s what it’s all about."

Lakers star Anthony Davis declared "I suck right now" after he scored 18 points, took nine rebounds, laid on six assists and came up with two blocks.

Yet James says his fellow All-Star is being too hard on himself.

"He's continuing to grow every single game. Every single film session, we kind of break those things down - what he sees on the floor," James said.

"Tonight was another example of him just seeing the other side of the floor and putting the ball on time, on target and guys knocking it down."

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis provided a scathing assessment of his form despite another road win for the NBA champions, saying "I suck right now".

The Lakers extended their franchise away record to eight consecutive wins on the road to start the season by topping the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 on Thursday.

LeBron James posted a season-high 34 points, while All-Star team-mate Davis had 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks for the Western Conference-leading Lakers (12-4).

Davis, though, was far from pleased with his performance after shooting just eight-of-18 from the field and missing his only three-point attempt.

"Right now, to be hard on myself, man, I think I suck right now," Davis said post-game.

"I'm not making shots, I'm not making free throws. But I think tonight my aggressiveness, just being a poster and getting to the paint allowed guys to get open."

David added: "My aggressiveness tonight. That's the only way I feel like I'm gonna get out of this funk or whatever that I'm in.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a better basketball player every game, and that's what I'm gonna continue to do."

"I trust my team-mates. AC [Alex Caruso] hit one for me. Bron hit one and Kenny [Kentavious Caldwell-Pope] hit one, and they're in the right spots where I want guys when I have the ball in the post," Davis continued.

"And just [am] able to make the read with their guys doubling or collapsing to the paint when I get there, and was able to kick it out and those guys made shots."

 

The Milwaukee Bucks host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday in what most expected to be the matchup from last season's NBA Finals.

The Miami Heat put paid to that in the injury-enforced absence of reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Lakers battled their way to the championship.

This will be their first meeting since then, though it could be lacking in star power with LeBron James questionable to appear due to a left ankle sprain.

The Bucks will be keen to bounce back and make a statement against one of the league's strongest teams after a five-game winning run ended at the hands of James Harden, Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets last time out.

The Lakers also have a point to prove, though, having suffered a fourth-quarter collapse against the Golden State Warriors in their previous outing.

Milwaukee are their first opponents on a gruelling seven-game road trip, though they are yet to be beaten away from Staples Center this season.

KEY PERFORMERS

Khris Middleton

Middleton has the best offensive rating of any of Bucks starter (126.5) and his net rating of 16.5 is only marginally bettered by Jrue Holiday (17.5).

He is making a career high 2.6 three-pointers per game this season and is doing a better job of punishing teams when he gets to the free throw line – he is shooting at 93.2 per cent from the stripe, a solid improvement on the career mark of 87.6 per cent he entered this season with.

He is not only a perpetual threat from beyond the arc, either. This season he has made 75 per cent of his field goals at the rim – that's better than Antetokounmpo (70.1 per cent).

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

There can be no doubt that James and Anthony Davis are the most important players on the Lakers roster, but Caldwell-Pope is proving that the decision to hand him a three-year, $40million contract to return to the team last November was a great decision.

He is shooting at 53.7 per cent from beyond the arc this season, second only to Seth Curry (59.5 per cent) among players with a minimum of 40 attempts in the league.

Caldwell-Pope also has the highest plus minus per game (11.4) for qualifying players in the league this season. It is a significant jump from the 2.3 he averaged over the previous campaign and shows just how much of an impact he is having early on.

KEY BATTLE: CAN DAVIS CONTAIN GIANNIS?

When the teams met back in March – before the season was shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic – Antetokounmpo drew two fouls from Davis within four minutes of the first quarter.

It piled the pressure on the Lakers, who were forced to try to defend the Bucks' best player using a backup option. But when your backup option is LeBron, you are in good hands.

Antetokounmpo ended the game with 32 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, but it was the Lakers who emerged 113-103 winners.

While defending Giannis, LeBron still shone on the offensive end and finished with 37 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

Davis was limited to just 29 minutes due to his foul trouble and, particularly if James misses out due to his ankle injury, will need to be more disciplined on Friday.

HEAD TO HEAD

That was only the third time Antetokounmpo has faced the Lakers since LeBron joined the team ahead of the 2018-19 season and it was his first lost.

Los Angeles benefited from keeping Giannis to 47.6 per cent shooting from the field but it is not a guarantee for success – the Bucks are 20-17 when Antetokounmpo shoots below 50 per cent on at least 20 attempts.

Still, since Giannis entered the league in 2013, LeBron is 16-5 against the Bucks with an average of 27.4 points per game.

Anthony Davis led the way as defending NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers continued their fine form with a 120-102 win over James Harden's Houston Rockets.

Davis, who sat out on Friday due to a groin strain, returned to score 27 points in Sunday's victory against the Rockets in Houston.

LeBron James posted 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds as the Lakers won for the sixth time in seven games.

"[Tonight] was just A.D. being A.D. and just having him back in the line-up gives us a whole other dynamic both offensively and defensively," James said after the Lakers led by as many as 27 points.

Former MVP Harden finished with 20 points, while Rockets team-mate Christian Wood had 23 of his own.

It was a feisty game in Houston, where the Lakers' Markieff Morris and Rockets big man DeMarcus Cousins were both ejected in the opening half, while there were also five technical fouls and two flagrant fouls.

Kawhi Leonard reached a milestone after the Los Angeles Clippers held on to beat the Chicago Bulls 130-127.

Clippers star Leonard put up a season-high 35 points, including seven three-pointers, four assists and three steals to reach 10,000 career points.

Paul George contributed 28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists for the Clippers, who snapped a run of back-to-back losses.

The Bulls were led by Zach LaVine's season-high 45 points away to the Clippers in Los Angeles.

 

Durant stars on return

Back on the court following a three-game absence, Kevin Durant scored 36 points and collected 11 rebounds, but the slumping Brooklyn Nets still lost 129-116 at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander inspired the Thunder with 31 points.

Julius Randle's double-double of 29 points and 10 rebounds was not enough to lift the New York Knicks, who went down 114-89 to the Denver Nuggets. Nikola Jokic (22 points and 10 rebounds) propelled the Nuggets with a double-double of his own.

 

Curry struggles

While the Golden State Warriors trumped the struggling Toronto Raptors 106-105, Stephen Curry was uncharacteristically poor. Curry was just two-of-16 from the field, while he made only one of his 10 three-point attempts for 11 points in 38 minutes.

 

LeBron, the sniper!

James produced a moment of magic to unleash Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with a stunning left-handed pass from deep.

Sunday's results

Utah Jazz 96-86 Detroit Pistons
Los Angeles Clippers 130-127 Chicago Bulls
Oklahoma City Thunder 129-116 Brooklyn Nets
Denver Nuggets 114-89 New York Knicks
Los Angeles Lakers 120-102 Houston Rockets
Minnesota Timberwolves 96-88 San Antonio Spurs
Golden State Warriors 106-105 Toronto Raptors
Miami Heat-Boston Celtics (postponed)

 

76ers at Hawks

The high-flying Philadelphia 76ers (7-3) visit the Atlanta Hawks (4-5) on Monday. Doc Rivers and the 76ers are set to welcome back All-Star Joel Embiid, but Ben Simmons is expected to miss out after a depleted Philadelphia side – ravaged by coronavirus and injuries – lost to the Nuggets.

Anthony Davis says there is trust among the Los Angeles Lakers regardless of whether he or LeBron James are making plays late in games after the NBA champions rallied past the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Lakers made it a clean sweep of four straight wins on the road thanks to a 94-92 triumph in Memphis, backing up a victory against the Grizzlies and two against the San Antonio Spurs.

James and Davis each finished with 26 points, but it was down the stretch where the superstar duo really came to the fore. Trailing by two with five minutes to go, they combined for a 9-2 run and an 86-81 lead.

Together they put on 15 points late in the fourth to make it 92-83 with a little over 30 seconds remaining, while the last basket was James assisting Davis for a dunk.

Describing their chemistry late in games, Davis said: "When you got playmakers and scorers on the floor, it's very easy for us. 

"We don't like to use the term, like you said, 'flip the switch'. We want our switch to be on at all times, but it's good to have guys who can make plays for us, especially late in game at both ends of the floor. 

"It starts with LJ and his ability to pass the ball and read defences is unreal, his I.Q. is very high. We usually have the ball in his hands. 

"Even when we don't have it, we know late game whoever it's going to - whether it's his hands or my hands – we're going to live with that, whether we make shots or miss shots we're going live with us making the plays for us or for others."

Davis is in his second season playing alongside the legendary James, who also had 11 rebounds and seven assists to his name in another influential showing.

For Davis, there are no surprises about the levels James continues to show at the age of 36.  

"It's not surprising at all, he's been doing this now for 18 years, it's crazy to see he's doing it in his 18th year but the numbers he puts up is not surprising," he added. 

"It's testament to the player he is - practice, shootaround, pregame, he's constantly getting his body ready to go out there and put up those kind of numbers you know from rebounds to assists or scoring. 

"But also, things that don't show up on a stats sheet, leadership, getting guys ready to learn offensive and defensive schemes we have, hence he's one of the greatest to ever do it, if not the greatest. 

"It's good to be a witness to that in my second year, to see how he continues to put on a show for us, night in and night out. It surprises no one on this team, he's been doing it night in and night out and it seems like it's getting easier for him."

James was asked about the Lakers' first experience of the road this season during a global pandemic.

"It's what it is, we're here to work, get better and to win," he replied. 

"We're in a winning business, that's what we want to do, we want to create great habits, we're going to have times when we don't play to our capabilities but we still want to create great habits going forward, that's what I think we did on this road trip."

LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers team-mates were left disheartened upon hearing Kenosha County District Attorney announced no charges are to be filed against the police officer who shot Jacob Blake, a black man who was left paralysed.

Blake was shot seven times in the back by a white police officer on August 23 last year as he leaned into his car in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

In response, several professional sports teams refused to play scheduled matches and, in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their first-round playoff game against the Orlando Magic.

That subsequently led to all NBA games on August 26 being postponed, while there were further boycotts in Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Soccer (MLS).

Many NBA stars, including James, were vocal from the Orlando bubble in their campaigning against racial injustice, and several Lakers players expressed their dismay following Tuesday's confirmation none of the officers at the scene will face criminal charges.

Speaking after the Lakers' 94-92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, James said: "To hear what happened in Kenosha today was a blow to the heart and to the gut, not only to that community but to us and to every, I guess, black person that has been a part of this process and seeing these outcomes for so long.

"And not only in the black community but in the white community as well, who see moments like this happen to us, to happen to his family, to happen to [Blake] himself. But we've got to continue to stay strong, continue to believe in each other and continue to push for the greater change and the greater good."

Wesley Matthews, now at the Lakers, was a part of the Bucks side that refused to play against the Magic back in August and was left similarly frustrated by the latest developments but urged the public to not lose heart.

"Truly, it's disheartening," he added. "It's just about right and wrong, but it can't deter those citizens who are trying to do right, who are trying to fight for equality, who are trying to fight for the right things.

"It can't deter us, we can't lose our heads, we can't start rioting, we have to be calculated, we have to continue to keep our foot on the pedal, we have to continue to keep our foot on the gas.

"These are lives right here. It's upsetting as a Wisconsinite. It's upsetting as a human being that justice isn't justice. It's tough. But it can't knock us off our path that we're trying to get to, which is equality and just simply right and wrong."

Anthony Davis said he was left with a sense of failure but will "continue to push the needle for change".

"Obviously it sucks, we as a community try to support the family and try to do everything we can to get justice for him, for that to happen, it sucks," he said. "It's like we let the family down. We continue to honour Jacob Blake and his family, we continue to push the needle for change, it's not going to stop us by playing basketball."

LeBron James recognised the Los Angeles Lakers have to do a better job of finding Anthony Davis following Monday's 115-107 reverse to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Davis returned from a one-game absence as a result of a calf injury and had a quiet night, putting up just 13 points.

Only two of those came from 17 minutes in the first half and James said it is the team's duty to get Davis involved.

"We always gotta do a better job of finding him, looking for him, that's on us," he said.

Head coach Frank Vogel concurred, saying: "We didn't do a good enough job making sure he was involved in the offense in the first half. 

"It was a little bit better in the second half, it was one of those nights, we were kind of stuck in mud a little bit.

"I've got to make sure I get him the ball in opportunities where he can be aggressive."

Davis offered an update on his calf and said he has to show more aggression to score points.

"The calf is feeling good," he said.

"I gotta score the ball, simple as that. Obviously I was trying to make plays, find rhythm with the team. 

"I tried to find my rhythm back into the system, but gotta be more aggressive, go out and score the basketball, simple as that do whatever it takes to win the game."

James finished the game with 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists and felt the only difference between the teams was how they finished their plays.

"Both teams just settled in, I knew we were playing a very good team, knew it wouldn't be a blowout, both teams settled in and it came down to execution," he said.

It was a team effort from the Trailblazers, with Damian Lillard putting up 31 points - 21 of which came in an inspired second half - while CJ McCollum had 20 points and 11 assists, and Gary Trent Jr matched his career high seven three-pointers as part of his 28 points.

"It makes us just a little bit more confident to be coming on the road and continuing to grow, continuing to build on our effort," Lillard said. 

"We're just getting more comfortable with each other, and we're bringing our energy."

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis will sit out Sunday's NBA showdown with the Minnesota Timberwolves due to a right calf contusion.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said Davis suffered the injury in the opening-night loss to city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers before re-aggravating the problem in the Christmas Day triumph over the Dallas Mavericks.

"Well, we just want to be responsible with it," Vogel told reporters after the Lakers' morning shootaround on Sunday. "We want to keep an eye on it."

Davis has been averaging 23.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists through the first two games of the season for defending champions the Lakers (1-1).

"We want to take advantage of our depth and be intelligent with this injury," Vogel said of Davis.

Following a brief offseason after the Lakers clinched their first title in 10 years in October, Vogel said the team have no set policy regarding Davis and LeBron James in back-to-back games this term.

"We're going to approach each one throughout the whole year on a case-by-case basis," Vogel said. "And with the expectation that our guys will play both games, unless there is a reason otherwise.

"In this case, there is a reason otherwise with Anthony's calf. We'll just continue to evaluate that throughout the year."

Lakers superstar James is averaging 22.0 points, 7.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game.

LeBron James is confident his ankle injury is not serious after playing in a season opener that he struggled to process for NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers.

Just 72 days on from wrapping up a 4-2 Final series triumph over the Miami Heat in the Orlando bubble, the Lakers had their ring ceremony before falling to a 116-109 loss to city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center.

Superstar James had 22 points from only 28 minutes after turning his ankle in the second half of the contest.

James expects to play on Christmas Day against the Dallas Mavericks, explaining: "I turned it pretty good but I don't think it's going to stop me from playing Friday.

"I have a couple of days, you know what I'm like about treatment, I do that around the clock. I think I should be fine."

The 35-year-old explained a rather novel way of helping his ankle recover, adding with a laugh: "I'll go home and have dinner right now, I'll ice it and I'll drink some wine that will flow straight to the ankle.

"I'll make sure I drink on the left side of my body so it goes down to my left leg right down to my ankle!"

The delay to the 2019-20 season caused by the coronavirus pandemic has had a knock-on effect for this campaign, which has been shortened to a 72-game regular season.

For James, it was tough to comprehend returning to the court so soon after a gruelling end to the championship run.

"The day is over with, I'm very happy with what we were able to accomplish and I'm excited to move on to the next day. It felt weird even having a basketball game today," he added.

"It's not the fact it's starting over, it's the fact it's starting already. I've always had a routine how I prepare going into a season after a Finals run, or a playoffs run knowing the kind of time I have to prepare for my body, for my mind.

"There was so much uncertainty of when we're going to start the season, is it going to be December? Early December? Christmas? January?

"Then boom, December 1 training camp, first game of the season is happening on December 22. It was just a lot, I can't lie to you it was just too much to grasp. We're here now, happy today is over, but it's just a lot to process."

Team-mate Anthony Davis – who put up 18 points – won his first championship ring as a result of the Lakers' triumph, something he will "cherish forever", but he also stated how tough it is physically and mentally to be playing again so soon.

"I think it's both, physically just from a standpoint of trying to get your body ready for the season," Davis said.

"After the game me and Bron were like, 'I can't believe we just played a basketball game'.

"The mental part, mentally being here, with a short offseason, just one or two months ago, then you had to wrap your head around we had to play tonight and play again Friday. It can get to some guys but the good thing is we have a very good team."

The Los Angeles Clippers claimed early bragging rights over the Los Angeles Lakers after upstaging the defending champions 116-109 on the opening night of the NBA season.

Paul George and Kawhi Leonard led the way as the Clippers took down city rivals the Lakers behind closed doors in Los Angeles amid the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday.

George fuelled the Clippers with 33 points, including 26 in the second half, while star team-mate Leonard added 26 points of his own.

LeBron James top-scored with 22 points as the Lakers' title defence started on a losing note, despite double-doubles from recruits Dennis Schroder (14 points and 12 rebounds) and Montrezl Harrell (17 points and 10 rebounds) – who left the Clippers via free agency.

Lakers star Anthony Davis finished with 18 points and seven rebounds in the season-opening defeat.

The Lakers, who unveiled their championship rings pre-game, were coming off the shortest offseason in NBA history after ending the franchise's 10-year wait for a title inside the Orlando bubble on October 11.

Frank Vogel's Lakers were slow out the blocks and the Tyronn Lue-led Clippers – who parted ways with head coach Doc Rivers at the end of 2019-20 – took advantage.

The Clippers raced out to a 22-point lead after outscoring the Lakers 39-19 in the opening quarter, though the latter eventually worked their way back into the contest.

However, it was too little too late as the Clippers – who sensationally surrendered a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in last season's Western Conference semi-finals – ushered in the Lue era in style.

The Los Angeles Lakers set the benchmark last season and look likely to be the NBA team to beat again in 2020-21.

An outstanding offseason saw the Lakers bring in Marc Gasol, Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell to boost a championship team.

Anthony Davis is coming back, too, as expected, aiming to build on a hugely successful first year in LA.

Crucially, fellow superstar LeBron James also agreed a new contract, ensuring the coming campaign's title defence will not be impacted by speculation around the veteran's future.

James was back to his best in 2019-20 as he led the Lakers to Finals glory and earned his fourth Finals MVP award.

He became only the fourth player to claim that honour after his 35th birthday - joining fellow greats Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan - and the first across the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL to be named the star performer of the postseason with three different teams.

There are plenty more milestones on the horizon for the former Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat man, however.

The draining nature of the previous season may mean LeBron sees less regular season action than he normally would; indeed, his 34.6 minutes per game last time out were already a career low and the Lakers have recruited the league's best two bench scorers in Schroder and Harrell.

But James has already proven just how effective he can be while managing minutes, that average of 34.6 the fewest in league history while scoring 25.0 points and 10.0 assists.

The 35-year-old, who turns 36 next week, has every chance of reaching 10,000 career assists before the coming season is out.

His 10.2 per game last term, taking on a new role next to Davis, were the most of LeBron's career, yet he has laid on more than the 654 required for the landmark in two of his past three campaigns.

James needs 125 more threes for 2,000, meanwhile, having made 148 last year. He would become the 10th player all-time to reach that mark.

Of course, between his playmaking and scoring, LeBron is still regularly posting triple-doubles - at least eight in four straight seasons, including 13 in 2019-20 and a career-high 18 in 2017-18.

Another six are required for 100 in his regular season career.

But James might have to make the most of the length of his contract, which runs through 2022-23, to make any further progress on the all-time points list.

He surpassed Michael Jordan in his first year as a Laker and then LA great Kobe Bryant last season, reaching third behind Karl Malone (36,928) and Abdul-Jabbar (38,387).

LeBron (34,241) is 2,687 shy of Malone, a total he has never previously come close to in a single campaign - top-scoring in 2005-06 with 2,478.

Do not write James off, though, bolstered by the Lakers' impressive moves and fired by his frustration at missing out on the MVP award last year. He responded spectacularly to that setback and will be gunning for honours again this time.

Los Angeles Lakers duo LeBron James and Anthony Davis made their NBA preseason bows in Wednesday's win over the Phoenix Suns.

James and Davis sat out the opening two preseason fixtures against city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers after leading the Lakers to their first NBA championship in 10 years in October.

But James and Davis geared up for opening night – December 22 against the Clippers – by taking to the court in the 112-107 victory in Phoenix midweek.

James posted 11 points, two rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes, while star team-mate Davis had 10 points and four rebounds in 18 minutes of action as Kyle Kuzma led the Lakers with 23 points.

"We anticipated a little bit rusty first stretch and I thought that played out," Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said of James post-game.

"Once he got his legs underneath him, I think he settled in and looked great.

"I think it was anticipated and as I anticipated and it’s going to be a matter of getting his legs back under him again."

Lakers superstar James earned his fourth Finals MVP in 2019-20, becoming the first player in NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL history to win the Finals MVP with three different teams, having also received the honour with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat, per Stats Perform.

Last season, James appeared in 67 games and averaged 25.3 points, a career-best and league-leading 10.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds per games, while he averaged 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the playoffs.

Davis and James became the first pair of team-mates in NBA history to each have 500-plus points and 200-plus rebounds in the same postseason as the Lakers reigned supreme.

The first overall pick in 2012 by the New Orleans Pelicans, Davis averaged 26.1 points in the Lakers' title-winning campaign – the most by any team-mate of James' when appearing in at least 70 per cent of games.

Davis became the fifth player in league history to shoot 50-40-90 in the NBA Finals (.571 field goal percentage, .421 three-point percentage and .938 free-throw percentage), joining Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups, Penny Hardaway and Magic Johnson.

Reflecting on his return against the Suns, Davis – who is fresh off signing a five-year contracted – said: "I felt great, honestly.

"Coming in I thought I'd be a little winded. You can try to get in shape all you want, but there's nothing like getting into basketball shape, in game shape.

"I was kind of hesitant about that, but I felt fine. I could have played more. Probably going to play more Friday, but I felt physically fine."

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