Flecks of gray are showing on LeBron James’ beard these days, but that’s about the only thing that seems to change with arguably the game’s best active player.

Competitive drive is the same as what it was when he was making eight consecutive trips to the NBA finals. Scoring, rebounding, playmaking? All still vintage.

And a unique way of analyzing things. Things like Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and the Mavericks.

A few hours before the Lakers and Mavericks will meet at American Airlines Center, James sat in a baseline seat courtside and was asked about the Doncic and Porzingis duo that he would see later in the evening. If he’s overly impressed with the Mavericks’ twosome, he wasn’t going to let on about it. There was no gushing.

“It’s a great pairing,” he said. “Two great talents.”

He’s not only a great player, but knows how to get the most from an economy of words.

James, Anthony Davis and the rest of the Lakers remain NBA royalty. They may or may not be the best team in their own city, but it’s not open to debate which franchise flicks the NBA attention meter the most.

It’s the Lakers.

This year, they are off to a 3-1 start, like the Mavericks. And while it’s a very small sample size, they also are in the top three in the league in key defensive numbers like field-goal percentage and scoring defense.

While everybody looks at Davis, James and Kyle Kuzma (who will make his season debut tonight) on the offensive end, it’s on defense where they have been most effective so far this season.

“At the end of the day, as a collective group, this is where we make our mark,” James said after the Lakers’ shootaround. “We have guys that have been on all-defensive teams, that take pride on the defensive end. With so many guys who have played at a high level on that side of the court, it comes organically and everything falls into place.”

The first four opponents have averaged just 97.5 points, second fewest in the league. The Mavericks, meanwhile, are averaging a fraction under 115 per game. So something has to give.

James knows he will be seeing one of the NBA’s youngest duos with great potential in Doncic and Porzingis. Doncic’s numbers through a season and four games are virtually identical to what James’ were in his first season-plus.

But, he wasn’t in an analytical mood after the morning practice: “We (want to) make it tough on both of them and hopefully we come out with a victory.”

A goal shared by Doncic and Porzingis against James and Davis.

Twitter: @Esefko

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