LeBron James has one of the greatest basketball minds of all-time. On the brink of his 39th birthday, James is now the oldest player in the NBA and also still one of the best. LeBron might not be able to dial up his absolute best physical performance every night anymore, but he’s still always thinking the game at a high level.
When James dispenses advice on the court, you should listen. James gave D’Angelo Russell a pep talk during the Lakers’ season-opener against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night after a bad shot a few possessions earlier.
James was wearing a mic on opening night for TNT, and the cameras captured him dropping gems of basketball wisdom on multiple occasions. In one instance, James pulled aside Russell and told him he was going to open at the elbow with a switch on the pick-and-roll. LeBron explained to Russell how he could see the full court as a passer, and find an open Lakers teammate for a bucket.
When this exact scenario played out earlier in the fourth quarter, Russell chose to shoot instead of passing to LeBron at the elbow. After the play, James was shown talking to Russell.
LeBron telling D’Angelo Russell that he is open at the elbow out of the pick and roll vs switching and he sees everything to playmake – so naturally, he ignores him and shoots an ISO 3. pic.twitter.com/HjkKyXUEEK
— Coach Gibson Pyper (@HalfCourtHoops) October 25, 2023
The Nuggets beat the Lakers, 119-107, on the night Denver got its 2023 NBA championship rings. The Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals last year, and it still feels like there’s a big gap between the two teams as long as Nikola Jokic is on the floor.
It originally looked like Russell ignored James’ advice, but it appears that the pep talk was in response to the shot, not before it.
The Lakers need more out of their backcourt. That starts with Russell having a better night than he did in game one.