After a disappointing first season in Los Angeles, LeBron James is taking the Lakers to the NBA Finals. James was brilliant in Saturday’s close-out win against the Nuggets, posting 38 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists for his 27th postseason triple double. He ended any hopes of another Denver miracle with 16 points in the final quarter, including nine straight in the closing minutes to put the game out of reach.
As teammates and opponents marveled at how James is able to keep his game at such a high level at age 35, he talked to reporters, including Bill Oram of The Athletic, about the criticism he took last year and how it inspired him.
“I heard all the conversations and everything that was said about why did I decide to come to L.A. — the reason I came to L.A., it was not about basketball,” he said. “All those conversations, just naysayers and things of that nature. I understood that, with the season I had last year and my injury, it just gave them more sticks and more wood to throw in the fire to continue to say the things that they would say about me. But it never stopped my journey and never stopped my mindset and never stopped by goal.”
There’s more Lakers news this morning:
- The offseason trade that brought Anthony Davis from New Orleans enabled L.A. to quickly transform from missing the playoffs to being the best team in the West. Davis, who also stood out Saturday with a 27-5-3 line, turned out to be the perfect complement to LeBron. “This is the reason why I wanted to be a teammate of his and why I brought him here,” James said (Twitter link from Michael Scotto of HoopsHype). “I wanted him to see things that he hadn’t seen before in this league. To be able to come through for him meant a lot for me personally.”
- A season like no other for the Lakers included the tragic death of franchise legend Kobe Bryant in a January helicopter crash. James took time Saturday to remember Bryant, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. “He sent me a text right away and said, ‘Welcome, brother. Welcome to the family.’ That was a special moment because at the time, Laker faithful wasn’t (fully in on me). A lot of people were saying, ‘Well, we might not want LeBron at this point in his career,’ and, ‘Is he right? Is he going to get us back (to the Finals)?’ So to hear from him and get his stamp of approval, it meant a lot. I don’t ever question myself, but when it’s coming from Kobe, it definitely meant a lot.”
- Frank Vogel only became the Lakers’ coach after they missed on their first two targets, but he turned out to be an ideal leader for the team, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Vogel said the mystique surrounding the franchise made him want the job. “For me it was just, they were the cool team out West,” he said. “I didn’t really leave the East Coast, I didn’t travel much as a kid or anything like that. So, it was like a foreign country thinking about California. And they just had palm trees and sunshine, just had a flair to them that was celebrity like, you know? And the way their team played represented that. It was a show on the basketball court, it wasn’t just a sporting event.”