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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla – Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James has yet to express concern about the team’s loss. He expressed more frustration having spent the past three weeks playing NBA games in the gym here without any fans.

“I’m getting used to being out there. It’s a very strange dynamic. I haven’t played in an empty gym in a very long time,” James said after the Lakers’ 116-111 defeat to Indiana Pacers on Saturday. “It’s been a long time since nobody watched me play the game. I’m just trying to figure out that rhythm and lock it in.”

It has been so long that 35-year-old James believes he hasn’t played in an empty gym since before joining his freshman year at St. Petersburg. Vincent-St. Mary High School 1999-2000. James quickly became a substitute before jumping straight to the NBA when the Cleveland Cavaliers chose him as number 1 on the draft 2003. So James recalls, “I didn’t think I played in a practice room. Empty fitness for a really worthwhile game. “

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“I definitely enjoy playing in front of the fans. The fans are what makes the game,” James said. “Without fans, I wouldn’t be the me of today. For all the fans out there who came to see me, I miss you and hope someday I can shoot. that interaction again. “

That partly explains why James initially mocked the NBA when considering hosting games behind closed doors when the coronavirus outbreak broke out in the United States. “I don’t play” any game behind closed doors, he claims. Four days later, James clarified his stance after saying he was more aware that the NBA was seriously considering the idea because of safety concerns related to COVID-19.

The subject has become a point of debate. The day before the Golden State Warriors planned to host a match in San Francisco without any fans, the NBA paused the season when Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz center was diagnosed with COVID-19. Nearly four months later, the NBA continues its Disney campus season, which requires everyone to stay on the site, check in daily, and adhere to the rules of masking and away from society.

“The fans are missed,” James said. “I hope that one day the pandemic and COVID can end, and we can take all the necessary precautions and find out in the US, where we can bring fans to be.” to the arenas and stadiums and things of that nature. for sport. “

Although James’ admits the annoyance of playing without fans, the new setup has not seriously affected his gameplay. He averaged 21.6 points on 45.2% shots with 9.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists. After scoring 13 goals in the Lakers’ first three games, he has only made one goal. And he missed Thursday’s match against Houston just to recharge after a slight sprain in his right groin.

The Lakers’ 2-4 record in the restart season has little to do with James. It has more to do with contradiction by Anthony Davis, who only got eight points in a 3/14 shootout run against Indiana. It has more to do with the Lakers playing with different rotations. It has more to do with the Lakers playing with a mixed effort since they won 1st seed at the Western Conference.

However, James admits he feels uncomfortable with the jarring silence.

“I’m getting more and more comfortable playing in an empty gym,” James said. “Just the setting here is a lot different from playing in a high school gym or college arena where you play in the summer, whatever the case. It’s very dark, extremely dark. I could literally hear the feathers hitting the ground. I’m getting more and more comfortable playing my game here in a bubble. “

However, James maintains that it does not affect his enthusiasm for the job. It just required a mental correction that he hasn’t had in his 17 years of career.

“As for the love of the game, it doesn’t matter who is in the stands. What’s going on doesn’t matter,” James said. “My love for the game? Once I get off the ring, it becomes a mecca. So I can lock on when that ball is lifted. But I definitely miss fans of we are at the Staples Center, and will also fight the fans who booed me. “

Follow USA TODAY’s NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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