The Denver Nuggets are celebrating the franchise’s first NBA title, but their Western Conference final foe is still seemingly top of mind.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone hinted at LeBron James on “The Pat McAfee Show” on Wednesday. When asked about the coverage Denver received during its sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference final, Malone had a cheeky comeback.
“Speaking of the Lakers, I just want you guys to know this is breaking news: I’m thinking about retiring. Only kidding, only kidding.”
This, of course, was a reference to James saying he will consider retirement this offseason after the Lakers’ 113-111 Game 4 loss. James, who had been in France as the official starter for 24 Hours of Le Mans, caught wind of the wisecrack and responded with an Instagram post.
Malone was critical of the lack of attention that Denver and eventual Finals MVP Nikola Jokic received throughout the series.
“All everybody talked about was the Lakers,” Malone said after Denver’s 108-103 Game 2 win. “Let’s be honest, that was a national narrative: The Lakers were fine. They’re down 1-0 but they figured something out. No one talked about that Nikola just had a historic performance.”
“The national narrative [after Game 1] was that the Lakers were fine. … No one talked about Nikola just had a historic performance. … The narrative wasn’t about the Nuggets.”
– Nuggets HC Michael Malone pic.twitter.com/zUSjByjZMf
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 19, 2023
“What he’s doing is just incredible, but the narrative wasn’t about the Nuggets. The narrative wasn’t about Nikola. The narrative was about the Lakers and their adjustments. So you put that in your pipe, you smoke it, you come back and you know what, we’re going to go up 2-0.”
The shirt that Malone wore during Denver’s parade had that same message.
Confirmed: Parade ready ???? pic.twitter.com/Iho6GBFSiu
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) June 15, 2023
The relationship between James and Malone dates back to when they were both employed by the Cleveland Cavaliers. James was drafted by his hometown team in 2003, and Malone was an assistant coach for Cleveland from 2005-10. During that time, the Cavaliers made five consecutive playoff appearances, including their first trip to the NBA Finals in 2007.