Lakers’ LeBron James and Russell Westbrook turn heads at Summer League

Los Angeles Lakers basketball player LeBron James, middle, greets fan James Goldstein during Game 5 of basketball's NBA Finals between the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks, Saturday, July 17, 2021, in Phoenix. Also pictured is musician Adele, right. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Lakers star LeBron James, middle, greets fan James Goldstein during Game 5 of the NBA Finals in July. On Saturday, James joined Russell Westbrook at a Summer League game in Las Vegas. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

Three years after LeBron James arrived at his courtside seat at the NBA’s Summer League in Lakers gear, heralding for the first time his arrival to his new team, he returned to the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday night to mark another new beginning for the franchise.

James wasn’t alone. He entered the arena alongside new Lakers teammate Russell Westbrook, drawing surprised cheers from a half-filled arena predominantly filled by Lakers fans not expecting to see the All-Star duo show up to watch the team’s Summer League team play against Detroit.

Rather than enter the arena’s lower bowl from the loading dock used by teams to enter and exit, the pair took a shorter route to their seats by entering from the opposite side of the court. Fans sitting above their route, recognizing what was happening, began standing and pointing at the duo as they passed below.

At the first break in play after James and Westbrook took their seats, a group of photographers formed a semicircle in front of them.

James and Westbrook have trained together recently, according to an Instagram post published Saturday by James, but this was their first public appearance together since the Lakers completed a five-team trade that brought the 32-year-old guard who had discussed his desire to return to Los Angeles, his hometown, with James and Anthony Davis in the weeks before the trade was finalized, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Broderick Turner.

The Lakers sent center Montrezl Harrell, forward Kyle Kuzma and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to Washington and the draft rights to last month’s 22nd overall draft pick to Indiana.

During his official introduction as a Laker, Westbrook said Tuesday that as the starting point guard, he hoped to continue what he called his focus of being “able to uplift and make my teammates better around me.»

“And AD and Bron are friends of mine first, and me being a teammate, my job is to come in and uplift it and they’ll do the same with me, vice versa,» Westbrook said.

“And as the season prolongs, we will figure it out. There will be ups and there will be downs. That’s normal, that’s OK, but we’re gonna figure out how to play the best way that we want to play to be able to win a championship.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.