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Bronny James focused on simply ‘getting to the league’

CHICAGO — As Bronny James leaned back in his chair and surveyed the swarm of media members that had surrounded him Tuesday night at the NBA draft combine, he acknowledged the extra attention that comes with being the son of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James can be “a lot sometimes.”

Yet, the 19-year-old USC guard reiterated Tuesday that his goal was simply to play in the NBA and he was not focused on playing for the same team as his father.

“I would be happy about getting to the league instead of me thinking about playing with my dad,” James said Tuesday evening. “That’s not my mindset or not at all. I’m just trying to put in the work and see where it takes me from there.”

James said he had been in contact this week with his father, who has checked in with words of encouragement. But although the two share the same name, James said Tuesday he was focused on creating his own name for himself.

He shot down comparisons of lead initiators of offense around the NBA and instead comparing his game to players such as Boston’s Jrue Holiday and Derrick White or Sacramento’s Davion Mitchell for the way they influence winning by exceling in their roles.

“Bronny was just a nickname that I was just given when I was younger,” James said. “But everything that follows my dad, people just try to link me with that and all the greatness that he’s achieved. I haven’t done anything yet, so I feel like there needs to be that divide between Bronny and LeBron.

“Everyone’s heard this before. I just want to have people know my name is Bronny James and not being identified as just LeBron James’ son. I feel like that would great.”

James got a chance to start separating himself this week, after being medically cleared to return to the court this week following a cardiac arrest and procedure to repair a congenital heart defect nine months ago.

James participated in scrimmage with the rest of the draft prospects on Tuesday, scoring four points (2-for-8 on field goals) and four rebounds in 19 minutes. It did not keep the momentum going James had built following a strong showing on the opening night of the combine — which included knocking down 19/25 from 3 with a 40″ vertical.

“My job is just to play a role and play the right way, make sure I get my teammates involved and stuff like that,” James said. “But again, I was just super grateful for the opportunity to be out there. I felt like I should be out there.”

James used that word, grateful, several times throughout his media session on Tuesday, emphasizing that he was grateful to be on the court considering there was a time after his diagnosis he was not sure whether he would be able to play again.

“It was a tough time for sure,” James said. “But all this work that I’ve put in, it just really built me into someone that would never give up and it paid off. I put in the work after that situation and I’m back to where I want to be.”

James acknowledged the heart issues had an effect on his freshman season at USC when he averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Although he has been medically cleared, James said he is still getting over some lingering doubt from the aftermath of the issue.

“I feel like my parents were a big factor of believing in me and giving me the love and affection that I needed at that time,” he said. “I still think about everything that could happen, but I just love the game so much that it just overpowers me.”

James has declared for the June draft while maintaining his college eligibility and has until May 29 to decide whether to say in the draft or return to college; where he has decided to explore the transfer portal.

James said he had not made his final decision on whether to declare for the NBA Draft, which takes place June 26-27, but added he would take some time to weigh his options before making the final decision.

“A lot of thought, a lot of alone time by myself and thinking about where I want to be and where my heart wants me to be,” James said.

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