Despite having a mini breakout season with the Charlotte Hornets in limited action last season, few could have predicted that Malik Monk would have this kind of season with the Lakers.
Except LeBron James.
Monk continued a stellar stretch of games — and a stellar season overall — on Tuesday with a 24-point performance in a win over the Kings that included 11 of those in the 4th quarter with a number of huge clutch shots. After the game, James revealed that he has had his eye on Monk since last year.
“It’s funny, just a little quick backstory, me and (former assistant coach Jason) Kidd, we talked a lot last year. We wanted him last year,” James said. “When Charlotte stopped playing him last year, or they would play him, and then sit him for five or six games, and then they would play him, and then you would see him have a game at Miami where he had like eight or nine threes in Miami, and then they would sit him and not play him. Me and J Kidd, we would talk all the time, like ‘is there a way we can snatch this guy from their roster?’
“So through patience and good timing we were able to get him in the summertime this summer, which still doesn’t make sense to me, but we’re happy to have him. He’s a dynamic player and I always just think about that two-headed monster they had at Kentucky with both of those guys, him and De’Aaron (Fox). They literally were just electrifying, taking turns. So we’re happy to have him here.”
Monk’s final season with the Hornets was a rocky one of ups and downs. After a bout with COVID during the preseason, Monk found himself well out of the rotation to start the year and played in just four of the team’s first 17 games. He eventually found his way into the rotation and shined bright for the next 27 games before injuries derailed the remainder of his season, save for a brief run of games to close the year.
There were never many rumors of the Hornets looking to trade Monk early in the year, but that doesn’t mean discussions weren’t had. Charlotte had a reported interest in Montrezl Harrell, but that interest largely came at the trade deadline and never included Monk’s name.
Still, James and the Lakers clearly had an eye on Monk for quite a while, culminating in his performance this season. After Tuesday’s game, James took to Twitter to continue clowning on the Hornets, with Monk’s approval.
— Malik Monk (@AhmadMonk) January 5, 2022
While sometimes situations don’t work out in the NBA, Monk going from in and out of the rotation for a fringe play-in team in Charlotte to starting, and excelling, with a team that has LeBron James and, subsequently, title aspirations should raise some eyebrows. Monk always had this potential, dating back to his time alongside De’Aaron Fox at Kentucky. It’s what led the Hornets to use a lottery pick to draft him.
But four tumultuous seasons later — some of which Monk has admitted to taking blame for — and the situation was so bad in Charlotte that the team simply cut ties with him when he still was eligible for restricted free agency, an unprecedented move for a player still just 23 years old that had shown as much potential as he had.
Nonetheless, the Hornets' loss has been the Lakers' gain this season as Monk has improved to the point of being a penciled-in starter for the team moving forward as he continues to show out.
Mark this one down as a win for LeGM.
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