Friday, June 2 2023
Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks (24) talks to Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) during the second half of Game 2 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Even at 38 years old, with 20 seasons of mileage on his legs, LeBron James is still plenty agile.

You could look between the four lines where the game is played, like James said Friday.

Or you could watch him sidestep chance after chance to respond to Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks, who called James “old” after Memphis evened the first-round series with the Lakers on Wednesday night.

Either way, James can clearly still get to where he wants to go.

One day ahead of Game 3, James masterfully avoided directly responding to Brooks or to answering vaguely tangential questions about the pesky defender before closing the books on his media session on his own terms.

“I don’t want to talk much more. Tomorrow is going to be a great game,” James said as he clapped his hands like a blackjack dealer leaving the table. “I’m not here for the bulls—. I’m ready to play and that’s it. All right?

“Appreciate it.”

Message sent.

“LeBron needs to come out and do what he’s always done. Just play the right way,” coach Darvin Ham said. “Everything else will take care of itself.”

The Lakers, as a whole, fended off Brooks’ postgame talk without response, save for Rui Hachimura, who said a little something.

When asked about the comments, Hachimura said he did see them.

“I’m not really into social media, but I heard about it. Honestly, that’s all they can do. They’re a young team,” Hachimura said. “They just want to talk. We just don’t really care. We’re going to play games and win this one.”

James and the Lakers, generally, seemed to know that whatever was said in the home locker room Wednesday night would have little effect on the game Saturday, the Lakers’ first home playoff game with a capacity crowd since 2013.

They also aren’t stressing over Ja Morant’s availability. Morant, who sat out Game 2because of right hand soreness, went through a noncontact practice Friday with the Grizzlies. Like before Game 2, he’ll be questionable on Saturday, Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins told reporters.

“They’re still a great team with or without him,” James said. “Nothing changes.”

The Lakers, though, need to be better than they were in Game 2, and that improvement can begin with Anthony Davis.

Davis scored just 13 points on four-for-14 shooting in Game 2, saying afterward the Lakers won’t have a chance to win if he plays that poorly. The 13 points is tied for the third fewest he has scored in a playoff game, trailing only the two games in the 2021 first round he left early from because of injury.

Getting him to bounce back was among the things the Lakers prioritized between the series’ second and third games.

“We all have to do a better job of helping each out,” James said. “Especially with AD, we got to do a better job of getting him the ball in his most comfortable positions and with more time on the shot clock where he’s not playing against it.”

One thing the Lakers hope to keep going is the excellent play from Hachimura off their bench. He has scored at least 20 in each game, the first time he has done that in consecutive games since the end of 2022 season.

“Mentally, I was getting ready for this, for this moment, Hachimura said. “I just like those big moments, those big games. That’s how I get my strength and everything out. You know, how my mental was, I’m ready for this.

“… I knew it was going to be more physical. I knew it was going to be more intense. Mentally, I was ready. We’ve been practicing pretty good. We’ve been really locked in. Then the practice becomes more physical and we’re pretty locked in.”

Nothing embodied that more that James’ steely focus Friday.

“I’m at my best in the most uncomfortable position,” James said.

And Saturday, the Lakers are hoping to pass that uncomfortability back to the Grizzlies.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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