LeBron James scored 42 points and a total of 16 rebounds in a 104-102 victory in L.A.’s legendary pro-am basketball league on Saturday, completing a successful comeback to the Drew League with DeMar DeRozan. Check out some great new bookmakers for betting on the NBA!
Dino Smiley, the longtime Drew League commissioner, told ESPN that he expected Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving to participate in the game before James and DeRozan’s, but that did not happen.
“We still have a couple games left today and then six tomorrow, so we’ll see,” Smiley said late Saturday afternoon.
Smiley said Irving’s participation on Saturday “sounded like it was going to be a sure bet, but I don’t know what happened.”
An Instagram user at a Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach’s ladies’ basketball skills camp posted a video of Irving working with the campers while the Drew League’s Saturday slate was taking place 55 miles away in Thousand Oaks, California.
The Drew League game on Saturday was the 37-year-old James’ first public appearance in more than three months.
His final seven from eight regular season games in the spring were canceled due to a left ankle sprain, which resulted in one of the most disastrous seasons in Lakers history, with him missing 26 games in all of 2021-22.
“I’m 100 percent healthy,” James said to ESPN during the first half.
James finished with 42 points on 18-for-36 shooting, 16 rebounds, four steals, and three assists. DeRozan, a Drew League regular who invited James and fellow Southern California native Casper Ware to play on his team, finished with 30 points on 9-for-23 shooting and 14 rebounds.
The MMV Cheaters, James and DeRozan’s team, fell seven points behind Black Pearl Elite in the fourth quarter before rallying.
A two-handed rim-bending slam from DeRozan with 1:22 left put MMV up by six and in charge. A three-pointer and layup made after snatching inbounds pass from BPE followed, and James was now in danger of losing his first game back at the Drew League in over a decade.
After a timeout, MMV inbounded the ball to James, who was fouled with 4.5 seconds remaining, sending him to the free throw line with his team-leading 103-102.
Ethan Alvano of BPE had a chance to win it with a three-pointer at the buzzer, but it missed, and James raised his fist in joy.
“I thought we really could have pulled it off,” said Alvano.
“We had some mistakes down the stretch. But, man, that’s a lifelong dream to play against, with, whatever with LeBron James. Someone that I grew up watching, someone I grew up idolizing. So, it was an honor, it was a blessing to share the court with him.”
In the absence of Irving, most of the suspense surrounding James and his former teammate was wiped away.
Irving recently picked the player option that gave him a payout of $36.5 million for the 2022-23 season with the Brooklyn Nets. Meanwhile, James is currently in the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he will be able to negotiate an extension with the Lakers next month.
Los Angeles has recently engaged Brooklyn in trade talks in a bid to acquire Irving in a deal that would send Russell Westbrook to the Nets. So far, those negotiations have not resulted in an agreement, a source told ESPN.
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