First, Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone took every opportunity this offseason to remind the world that his team had eliminated the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Then, Houston Rockets wing Dillon Brooks doubled down on saying he locked up James during their postseason matchup during the first round of the playoffs.
“There will be a time [to respond],” James said via Melissa Rohlin of Fox Sports on October 21. “When that time is, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s now or – but there will be a time when everybody will get it.”
James will get his first chance to exact a modicum of revenge when the Lakers host the Nuggets on opening night on October 24.
It will not be the same as beating them to advance to the NBA Finals, to be sure.
That is the measure by which James is judged at this point in his career, heading into his 21st season in the NBA. He even admitted that last season’s run to the Western Conference Finals, which surprised his teammate, Austin Reaves, after their 2-10 start to the season, was not up to his level of expectation.
Anthony Davis: Nuggets’ Talk ‘a Lot of Motivation’
“It was just a lot of the talking … going on,” Davis said via Spectrum Sportsnet on October 2. “All right. We get it. Y’all won. But … me and Bron had some conversations just like, ‘We can’t wait.’ … We feel like we had enough to win. Obviously, we were climbing an uphill battle for two months trying to make it to playoffs. But it’s a lot of motivation.”
Malone wore a shirt with his viral quote about going up 2-0 in the series with L.A. on it to the Nuggets championship parade among other jabs but tried to downplay Davis’ comments.
“Oh, they’re talking about us? Yeah, that was like four months ago,” Nuggets head coach Mike Malone asked rhetorically via DNVR_Nuggets on October 4. “I can’t speak for anybody in L.A. … But, if they’re still worried about us, that’s on them. This is a new season, new challenge.”
James said during his exit interview that he and Davis agreed the Nuggets were the best team they faced during their time as teammates.
But Davis said on media day that they are that much more fired up going forward.
“You want to win,” Davis said. “Anytime you lose you know it’s motivation to get ready for next season trying to compete for a championship. So that in itself is motivation. But also all the little talking that’s been going around all summer, we ready.”
Dillon Brooks Doubled Down on LeBron James Claims
Brooks’ claim to fame is his two-way play, capable of scoring from all three levels – albeit erratically – while also providing tough, agitating defense on the other end. Both have caused him issues with Brooks becoming infamous for taking bad shots and doing a bit too much on defense, resulting in negative plays.
He said “I like to poke bears,” when asked about his defense and called James “old”.
James averaged 8.7 points on 61.1% shooting against Brooks in the series, per NBA.com matchup data, though he did shoot 3-for-12 on threes.
Brooks was ejected from Game 3 of the series for a low blow on James. And while James never scored the “40” points Brooks said it takes to gain his respect, the Lakers did win the deciding Game 6 over the Grizzlies by exactly 40 points.
The Lakers visit Brooks and his new team, the Houston Rockets, on November 8.