LeBron James has seen the memes and read the punch lines.
"The narrative about our age," he said, "I kind of laugh at it. I actually do really laugh. I'm not just saying that."
The Los Angeles Lakers are old. They are the NBA's Traveling Wilburys, an aging rock star collective hoping to produce one more chart-topping album. Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan have more mileage between them than a 2003 Honda Civic. Carmelo Anthony, 37, recalled first getting to know James, 36, when they were high school standouts — way back in the previous millennium. At 32, Russell Westbrook is comparatively spry.
"I don't think it's going to be like peanut butter and jelly to start the season," James told reporters ahead of training camp. "But that's all part of the process."
In his own small way, James reinvented himself, too, by slightly slimming down at this august stage of his career.
"He's made the decision to come back a little bit leaner," Rob Pelinka, the team's general manager, said. "And I think that's going to translate in his explosiveness and his quickness."
Westbrook, a former league MVP, spent last season with the Washington Wizards before he was traded to the Lakers in August. Westbrook called it a "blessing" to be playing in Los Angeles, where he grew up.
"I think it's because we both understand and know what it takes in order to win, and obviously LeBron knows what it takes to get to that next level," Westbrook said.
But the aging process is undefeated, and there are obvious concerns about the Lakers' durability. James, so indestructible for much of his career, has been hampered by injuries in recent years, and Davis limped through the team's abridged playoff appearance last season. For his part, Pelinka sought to downplay the suggestion that the Lakers were brittle by citing the example of Tom Brady, who, at 44, is still quarterbacking football teams to Super Bowls.
Amid the doubts and the questions about the Lakers, Anthony can make out a path that leads to a championship ring, which would be his first. There were moments in his career, he said, when he considered the possibility of teaming up with James, one of his closest friends. The opportunity never materialized. Perhaps neither player was ready for that to happen, Anthony said.
"But here we are now," he said. "Timing is everything."