Christian Wood recalls LeBron James one-upping him in his attempt to make strong impression on Lakers

Jesse Cinquini
3 Min Read
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers big man Christian Wood recently recalled teammate LeBron James beating him to the punch and being in a full sweat at the gym when the big man showed up around 7 a.m.

Wood was trying to make a strong first-day impression during the team’s player-run minicamp. He got on the court at San Diego State University’s practice facility hours before the Lakers were scheduled to meet there.

“I tried to be one of the first ones in the gym,” Wood said to ESPN. “I think it was about 7 a.m., 7:20.

“First person I see is LeBron James. Already in a full sweat.

“He already beat me to it.”

Wood was one of several additions that the Lakers made during the 2023 offseason. Los Angeles also added guard Gabe Vincent, big man Jaxson Hayes and forwards Cam Reddish and Taurean Prince via free agency. The storied franchise signed Wood to a two-year, $5.7 million contract in the month of September.

The 28-year-old big man served in a reserve role with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2022-23 regular season, and he played like one of the best backup big men in the NBA. He averaged 16.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game while shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc across 67 games played with Dallas during the regular season (17 starts).

The Mavericks received Wood in a trade back in June of 2022 that sent Boban Marjanovic, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss and the No. 26 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft (Wendell Moore) to the Houston Rockets.

Once the new season begins, Wood will have played for eight NBA teams — the Lakers, Rockets, Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, Charlotte Hornets, Milwaukee Bucks and New Orleans Pelicans — since he started his pro career.

He didn’t solidify himself as an NBA talent until his stint with the Pistons during the 2019-20 regular season, however. Wood averaged 13.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game across 62 appearances with Detroit (12 starts).

The fact that James, at his advanced age, beat a 28-year-old Wood to the gym recently indicates just how motivated he is to continue to play at a high level in his 21st season in the NBA. The Lakers will play their final preseason game against Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 19.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer covering the Lakers’ dreaded rivals, the Boston Celtics, for SB Nation. He has also covered the New York Knicks for The Knicks Wall.