EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — With a stern expression on his face, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James perhaps wanted his body language to convey his thoughts. James certainly had no intention to share it with his words.
The 38-year-old James declined to respond to Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks dismissively calling him “old.” James also refused to share his reaction to Brooks adding, “I don’t respect no one until they come and give me 40 [points].”
Throughout his four-minute post-practice interview, James offered one-sentence answers with a serious tone and annoyed expression. He fielded various inquiries about Brooks and trash talking. He heard other game-related questions ahead of the Lakers (1-1) hosting the Grizzlies for Game 3 of their first-round series at Crypto.com Arena on Saturday (10 pm ET, ESPN). Eventually, James ended the interview on his terms .
“I don’t want to talk much more,” James said. “Tomorrow is going to be a great game. I’m not here for the bull—. I’m ready to play. That’s it.”
James then walked away from reporters, maintaining the same serious and annoyed facial expression as he showed when he was asked about Brooks.
James mirrored some of the mannerisms that late Lakers star Kobe Bryant had ahead of a big game. But does that mean James plans to post 40 points so that he can call Brook’s bluff? Or will James simply ignore Brooks on the court in the same manner he did during his post-practice interview?
“’Bronny is going to come out and do what he’s always done,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “He’ll play the right way. Everything else will take care of itself.”
This does not mark the first time that Brooks has talked trash with an opponent.
In the third quarter of the Lakers’ eventual Game 2 loss to Memphis on Wednesday, James and Brooks jawed at each other after he collected his fourth foul. Afterwards, Brooks said that James told him “he was dumb” for committing the foul. Brooks has also jawed with Warriors forward Draymond Green publicly and on the court. Brooks has exchanged words with Warriors guard Klay Thompson on the court. And in Game 2 of the Grizzlies’ second-round series last season in Memphis, Brooks committed a flagrant foul 2on Warriors guard Gary Payton II.
“Honestly, that’s all they can do. They’re a young team,” Lakers forward Rui Hachimura said. “They just want to talk. We don’t really care. We’re going to play our game. We’re trying to win the game.”
This also does not mark the first time that James has heard an opponent yell at him with insults.
Although they have since become friends and are both Klutch Sports clients, James and Green exchanged words in Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. The NBA suspended Green for Game 5 after the NBA gave him a flagrant foul 1 for striking in the groin after James stepped over Green, a play that caused Green to exceed the league’s flagrant foul points limit (four). Afterwards, James told reporters that Green crossed the line.
Before Game 5, a reporter asked Thompson generally what kind of trash talk is considered acceptable and unacceptable. He called the NBA “a man’s league” and said that “guys talk trash in this league all the time.” Thompson added, “I guess his feelings just got hurt.” James laughed dismissively about the comment when a reporter relayed Thompson’s quotes. Though James declined to address Thompson’s comment, he looked both amused and annoyed before saying “it’s so hard to take the high road.”
Incidentally, the Cavaliers then won the 2016 NBA title after becoming the only team in NBA Finals history to overcome a 3-1 deficit. Presumably, James believes that outcome has more to do with how he and his teammates played than Green’s outburst and Thompson’s remarks.
“The game is won in between the four lines,” James said in general about how trash talk affects playoff series. “Always has. Always will be.”
James said he has maintained that perspective through “experience” since “it’s the best teacher in life.” Although he believes there “are no rules” with trash-talking decorum, James had no interest in hurling insults at Brooks. Instead, James refused to acknowledge him, what makes him a great defender and how he helps the Grizzlies overall.
“At the end of the day, it’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 on the Grizzlies uniform at that particular time during that quarter or that minute, we have to respect them and we have to execute offensively.”