Magic Johnson Los Angeles Lakers
Earvin "Magic" Johnson, president of basketball operations of the Los Angeles Lakers, speaks during media day Sept. 25, 2017, in El Segundo, California. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

For the first time in a long time, LeBron James isn’t the favorite to represent his conference in the NBA Finals. That distinction belongs to the Golden State Warriors, and the league’s best player will now have to deal with them as part of the West because of his decision to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.

L.A. isn’t the favorite in the conference, and they aren’t even the conference’s second-best team on paper. The Houston Rockets still have the same superstars that led them to an NBA-best 65 wins, and the team nearly defeated Golden State in the 2018 Western Conference Finals.

Lakers president Magic Johnson isn’t worried about the perceived gap between Los Angeles and Golden State. He acquired James with hopes of competing for a title right away.

“I love competition and I love chasing the best. They’re the best so we’ll look forward to playing against them,” Johnson said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” when asked about challenging the Warriors.

“I think that we’ll look forward to that challenge. Everybody expects Golden State to win again but I would love to have the challenge to play them in the Western Conference Finals if we can get to that position. I’m a competitor, so I’m not scared of Golden State. I’m not worried about Golden State. They don’t keep me up at night. I know that we have a really solid team, a good team, a competitive team and a tough-minded team. And we got guys now who are winners.”

The Warriors are the odds-on favorites to win their fourth championship in five years, and they got even better this offseason. The team signed DeMarcus Cousins, who was selected to the 2018 Western Conference All-Star Team before a ruptured Achilles ended his season. Cousins could miss a couple of months before he’s finally ready to play next season.

James was the Lakers’ only major addition. Rajon Rondo signed with Los Angeles, though the point guard is 10 years removed from winning a championship and hasn’t consistently played at an All-Star level for some time. Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee also joined the Lakers on short-term deals.

The Lakers believe the core of young players that won 35 games a season ago can improve in the 2018-2019 season. As the No.2 overall draft picks in consecutive years, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball have star potential. Kyle Kuzma was one of the NBA’s best rookies last season, and Josh Hart was just named the 2018 Summer League MVP.

Before free agency began, Johnson believed that young core would attract at least one superstar to Los Angeles, so much so that he promised to quit in a year if the Lakers couldn’t land an All-Star.

“I had confidence in myself, the Laker brand, the young players that we had, and Luke Walton as the coach,” Johnson told Kimmel. “ (General Manager) Rob Pelinka and I had done our homework and we really thought we had a great plan to introduce to LeBron. And when you got an owner like Jeanie Buss, I think all those things, I think we had a strong argument to him to come join the Lakers.”

The Lakers should make the playoffs for the first time since 2013. They last won a postseason series in 2012.