LeBron James earned a trip to the NBA Finals for the 10th time in his career on Saturday night, as he carried the Lakers down the stretch in a 38-point performance that saw L.A. bounce the Denver Nuggets in five games. For James, making the Finals is something he’s very accustomed to, but for the majority of the others on the Lakers roster, this will be a new experience — or at least, something they haven’t seen in a long time.
It’s the first trip to the Finals for a number of players, most notably Anthony Davis, who will now play in his fourth playoff series with the Lakers after appearing in just three series over his time with the New Orleans Pelicans. Thus far this postseason Davis has acquitted himself quite well, as he often has in the playoffs, but the difference is that he has a superstar teammate capable of balancing the immense load asked of stars in the postseason.
After the Lakers Game 5 win, LeBron James was asked what was going through his mind when the confetti was dropping from the rafters in Orlando, signaling the Lakers had reached the Finals for the first time in a decade, and among the things he mentioned was getting Davis to the Finals, noting it’s “why I brought him here.”
LeBron to @taniaganguli on what he was thinking as the confetti fell pic.twitter.com/WinzoKl7Ow
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) September 27, 2020
“One, just getting my breath back together after a hard fought series with one of the most well-coached teams I’ve played against in the postseason. One of the most respected teams I’ve played against, you guys know how much I love Mike Malone. He’s just incredible, he’s the reason why that team’s so damn good. So I was thinking about that. I was also thinking about some of my teammates, it’s their first appearance in the NBA Finals. Obviously AD, had a lot of my thought process, this is the reason why I wanted to be a teammate of his, why I brought him here. I wanted him to see things he hasn’t saw before in this league, and to be able to come through for him means a lot, personally. Then I started thinking about our next opponent. Boston had a few moments in my head, Miami had a few moments as well, on how challenging that’s going to be, whoever wins that next series and how challenging that’s going to be. And then I just started thinking about my journey as well. All that went through my mind.”
The “I brought him here” line will certainly turn some heads, particularly in New Orleans where many have felt LeBron and Klutch were pushing for him to make the trade request, specifically to the Lakers, all along and now James just seems to admit as much now. That will further upset Pelicans fans, but then again, they already loathed James and the Lakers for working to pull Davis away.
As for his partnership on the floor with Davis, they’ve gelled in a way few superstar duos have in their first year together. You just have to look at their Staples Center roommates in the Clippers for an example of how even the best laid plans with a pair of stars can fizzle out if the chemistry isn’t right, but they’ve become inseparable in the Bubble and the on-court product has benefited. They each seem to recognize when it’s their time to take over and when the other needs them to, with Davis doing so in what was a critical Game 2 in this series, and LeBron closing things out in Game 5.
James is already thinking of their next opponent, whether Boston or Miami, and whichever team emerges from the East, they’ll have a tall order in figuring out how to slow down the Davis-James pairing and keep them from winning a title in their first season together.