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NBA Summer League games offer the perfect tease for the upcoming season

Arash Markazi, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

LAS VEGAS -- LeBron James and Anthony Davis have yet to suit up together in purple and gold, but they made their debut as Lakers teammates at the Thomas & Mack Center when they sat courtside last week during the NBA Summer League.

Last season, James made his first public appearance as a Laker at the league as he watched some of his new teammates play an exhibition while he wore Lakers shorts in the front row.

The NBA Finals finished less than month ago and next season is 31/2 months away, but the action here serves as an unofficial bridge between the two and is perhaps the best location for people watching in a city renowned for that activity.

Warren LeGarie, executive director of the league, and Albert Hall, vice president of business operations, are the orchestrators of the organized chaos that unfolds over the 11 days of play in which all 30 NBA teams are represented.

While many who fill the stands of the 17,923-seat Thomas & Mack Center and the adjoining 3,100-seat Cox Pavilion are there to watch basketball, many are also there to get their first glimpse of James and Davis sitting courtside or conversing with their new coaches Frank Vogel, Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins.

"This has become the epicenter of NBA social media," said LeGarie, who's also president of a management company that represents a third of the head coaches in the NBA. "People want to be a part of that. If you're here, you're not going to miss out. You're going to see something interesting."

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While some of the courtside moments that have gone viral seem coincidental, they are set in motion well in advance by LeGarie and Hall, who do their best to invite and seat the most talked-about stars in the game together for the biggest games of the day on national television.

"Don't kid yourself, we work at making those moments happen," Hall said. "We know and understand what the news will be and what could be news."

On Friday, James and Davis sat courtside and got up to greet Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, who were sent by the Lakers to New Orleans in the trade that brought Davis to Los Angeles.

On Saturday, a day after Kawhi Leonard and Paul George became Clippers, James, Davis and Kyle Kuzma were chatting with the Clippers contingent of Jerry West, Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley.

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