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    Lakers’ LeBron James sustaining self-motivation entering Year 21
    • October 22, 2023

    EL SEGUNDO — By the time Tuesday’s regular-season opener rolls around, it would’ve been 156 days since the Lakers were eliminated by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals.

    Plenty of time for the Lakers to reflect on the four-game sweep and the aftermath of the series – including the Nuggets eventually beating the Miami Heat to win the NBA title.

    The Lakers’ matchup against the Nuggets at Ball Arena in Colorado will also be Denver’s ring night.

    “I’m looking forward to the game,” coach Darvin Ham said after Saturday’s practice. “It’s been a huge motivational factor. It’s been on our minds as far as trying to come together as a group and making sure we lay the right foundation and start off on the right foot. Just playing the right way on both sides of the ball.

    “Definitely losing, getting swept or whatever…it’s a motivational piece for us. Just seeing how much we had turned it around and then now bringing the core back and adding what we’ve added. It’s a huge motivation for a chance to taste the conference finals and now the chance to really go beyond that.”

    Because of how last season ended and the offseason chatter, some of the Lakers have had their eyes set on the regular-season opener for weeks – if not months.

    Nuggets coach Michael Malone was introduced as “the Lakers’ daddy” during the Nuggets’ championship parade celebration.

    Malone also joked that he was “thinking about retiring” during an offseason interview – seemingly making a joke at the expense of LeBron James, who cryptically hinted at retiring after the Lakers-Nuggets series ended.

    James didn’t directly respond to the quip but appeared to address Malone on Instagram during the offseason. When asked how he’s decided whether or not to respond to trash talk, he responded “there will be a time.”

    “When that time is, I don’t know,” James added. “I don’t know if it’s now or…there will be a time. There will be a time when everybody will get it, for sure.”

    James, who’s entering his 21st NBA season, said the external noise doesn’t motivate him anymore.

    “I don’t need it,” James added. “I don’t want to say I don’t get motivated to play, because I do get motivated to go against the competition, I love competing against the best. But I don’t need an individual or a team to motivate me.”

    What motivates James – outside of his family – is simple.

    “It’s just my motivation to continue to be as great as I can be and solidify what I want to do in my career and still seeing that Larry O’Brien trophy in my mind on a daily basis,” James said. “That’s one of the best four moments of my career, being able to hoist up that trophy. [That’s] motivation alone. But also wanting to be legendary in this game and let my game speak for itself long after I’ve played. But this team has motivated me as well.”

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    Ham said guard Gabe Vincent will be available against the Nuggets after missing the last three preseason games because of lower back soreness.

    Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel soreness) and Jalen Hood-Schifino (right knee contusion) remain day-to-day.

    It’s unlikely Vanderbilt will be available against the Nuggets.

    “We’ll see,” Ham said. “There’s some hurdles that we got to go through and some boxes that we got to check with him and in all likelihood he probably won’t be available.”

    Taurean Prince will be the fifth starter alongside James, Anthony Davis, D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves against Denver, Ham said.

    That quintet started all three preseason games James and Reaves played.

    ​ Orange County Register