LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — A spirited LeBron James walked on the court at HP Field House for the Los Angeles Lakers’ second scrimmage on Saturday and began greeting each of the Orlando Magic’s starting five with fist bumps.
He then took his position behind JaVale McGee for the jump ball. But before locking into the challenge that was seconds to come, his attention turned to an onlooker sitting in the front row of a designated area for team staffers.
James notices someone’s head was down in a resting posture for what seemed like a millisecond.
“Wake your ass up!” James bellows in his deep voice. He was addressing Stacey Robinson, the Lakers’ massage therapist. The two share a brief laugh and from that point on, James directs his attention and voice toward the opposition, teammates and officials.
With no fans in attendance at the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World, the media is treated to an unprecedented display of live, raw soundbites. And James is proving to be one of the most entertaining soundbites in the bubble.
James is in peak condition but is rarely trying to take over during these practice competitions. He’s utilizing the scrimmages to maintain conditioning while making sure his teammates have ample opportunities to display their skills and earn rotation minutes.
James drives to the lane for a contested layup, but it doesn’t fall. He screams, “That’s a foul!” to a nearby official as he scurries back on defense. A foul is called. It’s a reach on the Lakers.
“That’s the same sh-- that happened on that end,” James argues.
His voice, which travels well, is his main weapon of choice as the loudest player on the court. He’s calling out the Magic’s sets before they’ve set up, calling out defensive assignments and fraternizing with the officials.
Alex Caruso subs in for James midway through the opening quarter, and 30 seconds later, the Magic bring in a fresh body.
“No. 7 is all drive!” James yells from the bench to his teammates, referring to newly inserted Michael Carter-Williams. “He’s all drive.”
Carter-Williams glances over at James, but doesn’t say anything back. He finishes 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
In the second quarter it’s time for James to sub back out, and he is committed to being aggressive.
He penetrates and in his peripheral vision spies a wide-open Danny Green in the right corner. The ball missed its target badly, sailing out of bounds.
“F--k, LeBron!” the superstar screams out of frustration.
As James runs back on defense, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope sprints past him along the sideline on the opposite side of the bench to check in.
“Come on with your sh--ty ass,” James says to Caldwell-Pope with a smile.
James takes his seat at the far end of the bench in the front row, but he never stops talking.
From barking coverages to celebrating after a teammate makes a nice play, James is still the loudest player in the arena even though he isn’t even in the game.
With the Magic at the free-throw line, Anthony Davis retreats to the other end of the court to get an early start on offensive positioning near the post.
The Magic’s Gary Clark, a 6-foot-6 forward, follows the 6-foot-10 All-Star and locks onto his back in the post. As soon as James notices the matchup, he stands up and chants, “Ahhhhhh, sh--! Ahhhhhh, sh--! Ahhhhhh, sh--!”
The rest of his teammates join in on the chant, and Davis can only offer a smirk at his team’s enthusiasm as he gets the ball immediately.
“There’s only one Channel 2 out there,” James hollers from the bench, meaning there’s only one shooter on the floor.
Laker reserve big man Dwight Howard continues where he left off before the NBA shutdown, being a force defensively and on the offensive glass.
He goes up strong and is fouled by a couple of Magic players, earning a trip to the line.
“Who wants some of Deebo?” James screams, referring to Howard.
James is now standing up and barking orders. He’s almost ready to check back in.
But the Magic are in a groove and building some momentum. Center Nikola Vucevic receives the ball in the paint. James immediately bellows to send a double-team. An overly ferocious double comes rapidly, but the weak side is exposed. Vucevic drops a pass to a diving Aaron Gordon, who flushes it down.
James, silently to himself, signals a timeout right before coach Frank Vogel actually calls one.
From there, James tones down his vocal antics. It is a scrimmage, after all.
The game ends up being light work for the four-time MVP, who registers 20 points and seven assists in 25 minutes to lead his team to a 119-112 win. He doesn’t play in the fourth quarter. When the final buzzer sounds, James is in slides walking across the court on his way to the locker room.
It was just a little glimpse at the sights and sounds of the game’s most iconic active player. And when the competition intensifies and the games matter, it’s safe to say we haven’t heard anything yet.
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