Inside the Lakers' quest to turn a star-studded roster into a championship team

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FIFTY-FIVE MINUTES before tipoff at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook take the court for a joint workout that Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy guides.

“We’ve been tied at the hip, pretty much, since we made the acquisition,” James says of Westbrook at media day. “We’re going to continue to be that. We’re going to hold each other accountable.”

He isn’t lying. Just like at their first sweat session together as teammates in August at the Yeshiva University High School’s gym just north of Beverlywood, California, Handy puts them through their paces.

James, wearing a black durag and a gold chain along with his Lakers-branded shorts and cutoff T-shirt, places the jumbo-sized plastic jug he’s holding on a plush sideline seat. What began as a monthlong challenge between him and his wife, Savannah, to drink a gallon of water a day in pre-pandemic times has continued for the 19-year NBA veteran.

Over the course of the next 30 minutes, James is soaked with perspiration, as he goes through Handy’s skill-sharpening obstacle course.

The pair pull off a series of moves: a drive into a spin capped by a pull-up jumper; a crossover, followed by two hesitation dribbles,

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