LeBron James, reporting for duty.
Wearing a crisp Los Angeles Lakers uniform and jersey No. 23, he showed up Monday for media day as if he was showing up for, well, work.
He looked serious. Sounded serious. Acted serious. That came as no surprise to Lakers coach Luke Walton.
“There’s definitely that look that I’ve seen before in somebody that I used to play with that knows the season’s coming up soon,’’ Walton said.
“Gee,’’ replied a local columnist. “Who could that be?’’
Walton grinned. “Ronny Turiaf,’’ he said, referring to the retired journeyman forward.
The punchline drew laughter.
Of course the real answer, the player from whom Walton had seen that unmistakable look, is Kobe Bryant. And like Bryant did over a 20-year career that included five NBA championships, James arrived at the Lakers’ training facility with a lunch-pail demeanor.
Yet Lakers fans can be forgiven if they’ve recently wondered about his focus.
Since July 1, when James signed a four-year, $154 million deal with the Lakers, he has emerged as a mogul in the making. Generating headlines in The Hollywood Reporter, he is involved in a movie deal, a TV series, a documentary and an HBO special.
But when asked about balancing his off-the-court projects with his on-the-court responsibilities, James’ focus was razor-sharp.
“Listen, I’m a basketball player,’’ he said. “I play ball. That’s what I do. That’s what I live by, and when I do it at the level I do it at everything else will take care of itself.
“As far as business, those things had been taken care of long before I even been out here to be part of the Los Angeles franchise.’’
On the court, leading the Lakers to their first NBA title since 2010 will be more difficult for James than making the sequel to the movie Space Jam.
“Well, my expectation is to try to get better every day,’’ he said. “I don’t expect nothing. You work for what you want. And you can’t expect anything.
“For me it’s all part of the process, and we don’t know. It’s the unknown. The unknown is what to expect at the end of the road. I don’t ever base anything off of that.
“What I know I can bring to the table is being committed to having excellence every single day, from a mindset standpoint and how I prepare to go out and play everyday. Everything else will take care of itself.’’
And that may take some time.
The defending champion Golden State Warriors are going for a three-peat this season, but don’t look for James and Co. to reach their level right away.
“Uh, we got a long way to go to get to Golden State. They could pick up right where they left off starting with training camp if they start today. We’re picking up from scratch, so we have a long way to go,’’ James said.
Although there were no predictions of when or if the Lakers will win a title while he’s playing for the team, James said, “Hopefully some day we can put ourselves in position where we can compete for a championship as Golden State has done for the last few years.”
But with training camp starting Tuesday, one thing is certain: LeBron James looks ready for work.