Last Year’s Trash Talk Nowhere To Be Found For Lakers, Nuggets Ahead Of Series

The seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers (47-35) will seek revenge against the second-seeded Denver Nuggets (57-25), one season after the defending NBA champions swept LeBron James and company in the Western Conference Finals.Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets, LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA

The Lakers have lost eight straight games to the Nuggets, and both teams have been outspoken about each other since last summer.

“It was a lot of talking,” Anthony Davis said in the preseason. “We get it, y’all won, but me and Bron had some conversations. We can’t wait.”

The Nuggets and coach Michael Malone definitely did not shy away from making it personal with the Lakers, as the team referenced the disparity between the lack of media coverage even after winning.

“All everybody talked about was the Lakers,” Malone said. “The narrative was about the Lakers and their adjustments. So you put that in your pipe, you smoke it.”

Notably, during the Nuggets’ championship parade, the coach was wearing a shirt with a pipe on the front showing that same slogan on it, while the crowd chanted, “Lakers’ daddy.”

Malone also made jabs at James’ supposedly considering retirement after last season.

“Speaking of the Lakers, I just want you guys to know this is breaking news: I’m thinking about retiring. Only kidding, only kidding,” Malone jokingly said while on The Pat McAfee Show

Lakers coach Darvin Ham heard Malone’s comments loud and clear, as he responded when making an appearance last summer on the #thisleague UNCUT podcast with Chris Haynes and Marc Stein.

“Oh wow, bring up ‘Money Mike,’ the Lakers’ daddy, right? That’s what they call him now, the Lakers’ Daddy…” Ham stated. “God bless his soul. This s*** ain’t over. God bless his soul.”

In reference to the comments made by the Nuggets and Malone, LeBron tweeted a cryptic message in the offseason responding to his former assistant coach on the Cavaliers (2005-2010).

“Enjoy your light but just know I’m the SUN.” And in light of the trash-talking, the 20-time All-Star told reporters, “There will be a time … when everybody will get it for sure.” 

At 39 years old, LeBron will be playing in his 17th postseason, and is entering into his self-proclaimed “Zero Dark Thirty-23 Mode,” ahead of the playoffs. The four-time NBA champion is the all-time leader in both regular season and playoff points scored, averaging 28.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 7.2 assists in 282 career playoff games.

Ahead of the first-round matchup, Malone said: “It’s year 21, and the guy is getting better… I hope he gets tired. I hope he wears down. But I’ve seen no signs of LeBron James slowing down by any means.”

The Lakers and Nuggets have matched up twice in the conference finals during the last four years, as James led LA past Denver during the 2020 Western Conference Finals series en route to a championship. However, the Purple and Gold’s last season ended after losing 4-0.

“It’s the defending champion,” James said. “They know what it takes. They know how to win. They’ve been extremely dominant on their home floor over the last few years. They’ve got an MVP on their team. They’ve got a closer on their team. They’ve got high-level players, high-IQ players. And they’ve got a hell of a coach.”

The Nuggets are led by two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 24.4 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 8.0 assists in nine games against the Lakers in the playoffs throughout his career. Not to mention, Jokic’s counterpart, Jamal Murray has averaged 28.3 points, 6.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds vs. the Lakers during those same nine games. 

James noted that it will be an uphill battle when going against the Nuggets.

“Obviously, it’s a great team that we’re playing against,” he said. “A team that won the championship… It’s going to be challenging but that’s what the postseason is all about. It should be.”

Yet like usual, the drama part of the rivalry was downplayed.

“It shouldn’t be personal at all,” James said when asked a question about the revenge narrative. “I’ve been in the postseason way too long in my career to know that you don’t get too high off of Game 1 or get too high over whoever the matchup is. You got to just stay even-keeled.” 

The Lakers will head to Denver for Game 1, as they attempt to end their losing streak vs. the Nuggets, who were 10-1 at home during the 2022-23 NBA postseason. Tune in to watch at 8:30 pm ET on Saturday night (ESPN).

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