It was a game that many labeled as a potential NBA Finals preview. The Los Angeles Lakers, who are second in the Western Conference, against the Brooklyn Nets, who are second in the East, made for appointment viewing on Thursday night.
The rivalry already seems alive and well between the two star-powered teams. Even before the halftime buzzer sounded at Staples Center, there was plenty of chirping and trashing talking back and forth — including from the brightest star on the court.
LeBron James Irritated by Nets
At the end of the second quarter, Lakers star LeBron James committed a shooting foul on Brooklyn’s James Harden with one second left on the clock. Harden hit both free throws to send the Nets into the locker room with a 64-53 lead, but it was what was said during Harden’s free throws that caused viewers to perk their ears up.
The TNT broadcast caught LeBron shouting “you always got something to say” in the direction of the Nets bench.
But who was he directing that remark to? Viewers were conflicted on Twitter.
Some thought Harden, who went to the line five times in the first half Thursday. Others speculated on Twitter that it may have been DeAndre Jordan, the Nets center who came off the bench against the Lakers.
Of course, there was plenty of suspicion that it might have been directed at Kyrie Irving, who earlier in the game was caught asking, “That’s your best free throw shooter?” when LeBron was sent to the line for a technical free throw and missed it in the first quarter.
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Irving and LeBron Have a History of Beef
Well, more like Irving having a history with LeBron.
During the 2020 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers, Irving went on Durant’s The ETCs Podcast and took a real, not-so-subtle shot at LeBron.
“This is the first time in my career where I can look down and be like, ‘That motherf—-r can make that shot, too,” Irving said of playing alongside Durant in Brooklyn.
LeBron got wind of that remark and, to no real surprise, didn’t take it well.
“Once I got the whole transcript, I was like, ‘Damn,’” LeBron said while appearing on the Road Trippin’ podcast with Richard Jefferson. “I wasn’t like, ‘Oh you tripping, I’ve been hitting game-winning shots my whole life.’ I was not like that. I was like, ‘Damn.’ Because I played with Kyrie for three seasons, and the whole time I was [in Cleveland], I only wanted to see him be the MVP of our league. I only cared about his success, and it just didn’t align. It just didn’t align.
“And we was able to win a championship, that’s the craziest thing,” James continued. “We were still able to win a championship, and we could never align, but I only cared about his well being, both on and off the floor. And it kind of hurt me a little.”
Nets Get Under LeBron’s Skin — and Vice-Versa
Regardless of who had irritated LeBron on Thursday, it’s clear the Nets, who built a 16-point lead over the Lakers by the end of the third quarter, were collectively getting to LeBron — and vice-versa. The Nets also were irritated with LeBron, according to one fan who claimed to be sitting behind the Nets bench.
LeBron on Thursday was without his co-star, Anthony Davis, who continues to deal with an Achilles injury. The Nets, meanwhile, were without Kevin Durant, the third leg of their Big Three. Durant and LeBron have been named the captains for their respective teams in the NBA All-Star Game on March 7.