LeBron not trading trash talk with Brooks before Game 3

LEBRON James has seemed wise beyond his years since the start of his basketball journey, and he wasn’t about to drop down to Dillon Brooks’ level of discourse heading into a pivotal game for the Los Angeles Lakers.

James declined to respond to the Memphis Grizzlies’ top agitator Friday (Saturday, April 22, 2023 PH time) after Brooks said the top scorer in NBA history was “old” following Game 2 of the teams’ first-round playoff series, which resumes Saturday night in Los Angeles.

The 38-year-old James patiently parried several questions about Brooks’ comments and about the importance of trash talk in general before abruptly cutting short his media session at the Lakers’ training complex.

James never said Brooks’ name, but he clearly knew who’s behind the narrative trying to push its way into a competitive series after two eventful games in Memphis.

“I’m ready to play,” James said. “That’s it.”

The seventh-seeded Lakers’ visit from the Grizzlies is the second game of a Saturday (Sunday, April 23, 2023 PH time) doubleheader at the downtown Los Angeles arena long known as Staples Center. The short-handed Clippers tip off against the Suns in Game 4 about 6 1/2 hours earlier, with Phoenix looking to claim a daunting 3-1 series lead with a second straight road win.

James has won four NBA titles and four league MVP awards on top of practically every other achievement possible in the modern game during his 20 seasons. The 27-year-old Brooks, who is older than the median and average ages of current NBA players, has won one playoff series in his six-year career.

So a resume competition would be a blowout victory for James, but he wasn’t about to play any such games with Brooks, who described his overall philosophy after Game 2 as: “I poke bears.”

“At the end of the day, there’s 10 guys on the floor,” James said. “They’re one of the best defensive teams in the league, and we have to respect that. No matter who is out in a Grizzlies uniform during that particular time, during that quarter, during that minute, we’ve got to respect everybody and we’ve got to execute offensively.”

James will go back to work against Brooks and the Grizzlies on a landmark night in Lakers history: For the first time in 10 years, and for the first time with James and Anthony Davis on the roster, this 17-time NBA champion franchise will hold a playoff game in front of a capacity home crowd.

The Lakers missed the playoffs in six consecutive seasons after losing in the first round to San Antonio in 2013, and their 2020 championship run occurred in the Florida bubble. They hosted three playoff games in a first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns in 2021, but attendance was capped at less than half-capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I’m looking forward to it,” James said.

Ja Morant’s availability for Game 3 is still unclear after he missed Game 2 with a sore right hand, but the Grizzlies star appears to be improving quickly. He went through a noncontact practice and individual drills Friday in Los Angeles, but coach Taylor Jenkins said they’ll wait until game time to decide whether he’ll play. (AP)