2024 California Classic Summer League

LeBron James says 'words are lost' as Bronny James makes Summer League debut

LeBron opens up on a 4th Olympic adventure & Bronny's Summer League debut, while Steve Kerr talks Klay Thompson's departure.

LeBron James, whose son Bronny made his Summer League debut Saturday, has begun training with Team USA for the Paris Olympics.

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LAS VEGAS — LeBron James officially started the process of being teammates with 11 of the best American players, with a gold medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics as the end game.

But with respects to Steph Curry and Kevin Durant and Joel Embiid and everyone else, only one player will be the ultimate teammate, with the end game of father and son playing for the Lakers this fall.

Saturday, Bronny James made his Summer League debut in the Cali Classic, an exhibition step toward teaming up next season:

“For me, to be able to see my son make it in the NBA alone is great,” LeBron said. “It’s always been a dream of his. For us to be side-by-side, I’m proud of him. Words are lost. I mean, the kid has worked so hard to get back to this point, so much has happened over the last year with him.”

Bronny suffered a cardiac arrest last July 24 while preparing for his freshman season at USC. He gradually recovered and worked his way into a bench role before being drafted 55th two weeks ago.

“To have this happen less than a year after the incident, to be with our friends and family when they announced his name … our family still don’t even have enough words to explain the feeling that we had. Such a great kid and I’m looking forward to seeing the progression for him to get better. He has so much room for improvement, the speed of the game, physicality of the game.”

Bronny struggled at times Saturday, missing all three of his 3-pointers and scoring four points in 22 minutes. But an hour before that debut, his father said the numbers from his son’s summer performances — he’s also expected to play next week at the NBA 2K25 Summer League 2024 in Las Vegas — are meaningless in the short term.

Bronny James scores 1st basket for Lakers in Summer League

“Doesn’t matter if he plays well and doesn’t matter if he doesn’t play well,” said LeBron. “I just want him to continue to grow in practices, in film sessions, individual workouts. You can’t take anything stat-wise from the California Classic or (Vegas) Summer League. Only thing matters is him getting better. He’s behind because he hasn’t really played a full season. Getting better is the only thing that matters.”

LeBron agreed to a two-year extension with the Lakers on July 3, the same day the team gave his son a four-year deal. LeBron turns 40 in December but last season, his 21st, he made All-NBA.

Bronny is only 19 and will most likely play a portion of his rookie season with the Lakers’ G League affiliate South Bay Lakers. Of course, it feels inevitable that, at some point, he’ll be on the floor for the Lakers and history will happen.

But before father and son share a moment, the task ahead for LeBron is the Paris Games, his fourth and likely final Olympics. He said he’s ready for anything, and any role coach Steve Kerr wants for him. And all signs point to LeBron playing a ball-distributing role, either in the backcourt or as a point-forward.

“My game is whatever the team calls for,” James said. “I will be able to provide it. If it’s a game where I need to score, I can provide it, or high assists, I can provide it. I’ve always tried to have my game ready for whatever the game or the team needs. Nothing changes with this team.”

“It’s going to be easy. You’re playing with 11 other potential Hall of Famers. You can go out and let the game come to you.”

Steve Kerr, the Team USA coach, said he’s unsure about defining the starting lineup and rotation as camp opens, and hinted they might change from game to game and opponent to opponent, the luxury of having to coach “12 Hall of Famers.”

Here’s who he won’t coach again, or at least anytime soon: Klay Thompson, who left the Warriors in free agency to sign with the Mavericks.

Kerr wanted to discuss Thompson first and foremost Saturday, calling his time with the All-Star guard “meaningful” and not just because of four championships.

“What he did for the team, the organization, for the Bay Area, and for me personally, the relationship that we have, all the incredible success – going through it all together has been so amazing,” Kerr said.

The last few seasons were trying for both coach and player; Kerr admitted as much. Thompson struggled at times during his return from two major injuries (which cost him two-plus seasons), and was temporarily demoted by Kerr last season from starter to the bench.

Thompson and the Warriors couldn’t agree on money or years in contract talks, and Thompson, believing he had productive seasons left, went with the Mavericks, who reached the NBA Finals last month.

That of course meant he wouldn’t spend his entire career with one team, and next to Curry.

“These things rarely go like you want, where everybody goes out together,” Kerr said. “We were hoping that could happen, but it didn’t. I completely understand. Sometimes in life, we all need a shift, just a fresh start, whatever it is, no matter what profession. Sometimes you just need a change. I think that’s it, that’s the easiest way to describe why Klay is leaving.”

Jayson Tatum was a no-show on the first day of practice because of personal reasons, but is expected soon at camp. The team will practice through Tuesday, then play Canada in an exhibition Wednesday before leaving for more exhibitions, in Abu Dhabi and London.

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

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