Before the Los Angeles Lakers could sign LeBron James to a max deal in July, they had to make a few moves to be as financially flexible as possible. They made their biggest one at last season’s trade deadline, shipping out Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., ironically to James’ now-former Cleveland Cavaliers team.
The move not only cleared up roughly $14 million in cap space for the Lakers, but it also landed them an unprotected first-round pick, which was later used to draft Moe Wagner. The trade also gave Clarkson and Nance the chance to play postseason basketball for the first time in their young careers, and not just any postseason basketball, but postseason basketball with LeBron James.
Having played with James for the latter half of the season, Nance felt qualified enough to give some of his former teammates, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma, an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to play alongside one of the greatest and most competitive players in NBA history (via Dave McMenami and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN):
“Yeah, I talked to J-Hart about it, Kuz a little bit,” Nance told ESPN about playing with James. “He is demanding. He just demands the same level of professionalism and effort that he gives to his teammates, which [is] respect. But the biggest thing I told them is that, on the court, be ready at all times. Like, if you have your hands down and you are open, you will get hit in the face with the basketball. Seriously.”
If there’s one thing James doesn’t have to worry about with his new teammates, it’s effort and professionalism, because aside from the regular roasting inter-locker room roasting the team has become known for, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that would question the polish of the group of young players the Lakers have put together.
However, that won’t stop the criticism from coming, and Nance cautioned Hart that the outside noise only gets louder playing with James.
He told his good friend Hart to be ready for the scrutiny that comes with being James’ teammate.
”Yeah, you got to have thick skin,” Nance said.
They’ve yet to play their first game together, but there’s no reason to believe Kuzma, Hart and the rest of the young guys can’t handle the pressure that comes with playing with James. In fact, everything that has come out of the locker room thus far suggests they’re ready for it.
It might not be right away, but if I was a betting man, I’d put my money on the young Lakers figuring it out.
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