Championship Joy: LeBron’s Immediate Response to In-Season Tournament Glory

Championship Joy: LeBron’s Immediate Response to In-Season Tournament Glory
Championship Joy: LeBron’s Immediate Response to In-Season Tournament Glory

Don’t let LeBron James’ initial comments on the in-season tournament final keep you from watching what could be an epic Lakers-Pacers clash.LeBron James definitely wants to win the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament. Look no further than his utterly dominant performance in the Los Angeles Lakers’ blowout win over the New Orleans Pelicans in Las Vegas on Thursday, when James became the first player in league history to ever finish with 30 points, five rebounds and five assists in 23 minutes or less.

The four-time champion clearly approached the in-season tournament semifinal like a playoff game, just as he did 48 hours earlier in another single-elimination bout against Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns. James wasn’t just easily the best player on the floor in Sin City, but played with more all-out energy and pointed intensity than his opponents and teammates, too. Taking home the NBA Cup and the $500,000 that comes with it matters to him.

LeBron James downplays significance of in-season tournament title game

In his initial comments about playing for the in-season tournament championship, though, James coyly downplayed the significance of Saturday’s matchup with the Indiana Pacers.

“Listen, it’s still December, so I’m not getting too crazy about the whole thing,” he told TNT’s Allie LaForce in an on-court interview after the final buzzer. “I understand this thing has been great, the in-season tournament. But it’s still December, you know? So it is another game for us to get better and we wanna try to win that game because we’re a team that wants to get better every single game we go out there, every quarter, every possession. So we got another opportunity to do that.”

The in-season tournament certainly isn’t the postseason, and the championship game certainly isn’t the Finals. But he’s obviously flipped that same switch normally reserved for May and June with the NBA Cup on the line, all the indication anyone needs that James won’t be treating Saturday’s clash with Tyrese Haliburton and company as just another game in early December. You think the 38-year-old wouldn’t relish winning the tournament while (briefly) stealing Haliburton’s thunder as basketball’s latest darling?

Get your popcorn ready for Saturday. James, Haliburton and the Lakers and Pacers seem primed to put on a show of high-level hopes worthy of the game’s historic stakes.

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