No! It never gets old competing in the NBA Playoffs. That’s the case if you are in the front half or the back half of your career in the “League.”
“It is still hype every single time, especially when you get to start at home,” said Memphis power forward Jaren Jackson Jr., drafted by the Grizzlies with the fourth overall pick in 2018. “It is really, really loud. It is loud early. It is loud always.”
It will be loud Sunday afternoon when Jackson and the No. 2 seed Grizzlies host LeBron James and the Lakers (the No. 7 seed) in the first round of the NBA’s Western Conference Playoffs.
For Jackson, this round of post-season play begins with him as an NBA All-Star for the first time. He’s ready for a familiar sight – the growl towels.
“It just brings it back. That visual just sticks in your head. … Coming in here, you know you are going to see the towels”
This week, Jackson was named one of the three finalists for Defensive Player of the Year.
“Huge excitement,” he said. “I am happy to be there. I definitely thought I was top three. It is cool to be top three.”
The “King” returns to the playoffs
After missing the last two playoffs, LeBron “King” James and the Lakers are back after winning the NBA Championship in 2020 in the pandemic-forced NBA Bubble.
“No, never,” said James, regarding whether competing in the playoffs ever gets old.
The Lakers fought their way through the play-in series, which the future Hall of Famer James complained about a few years ago, to make the playoffs. And given the widespread appeal of James and the Lakers, there will be a noticeable L.A. presence when game one tips off at FedExForum.
“Our focus is on the job at hand,” said James. “When we are able to get some Laker faithful on the road, it is an honor for sure. The game is won and lost between the lines. We have to maintain that focus.”
Lakers head coach Devin Ham is coaching in his first NBA playoff game. Is he nervous?
“I think it is more anxiousness to get to it,” he said. “The activity is so constant with the schedule of the regular season. With four days between the games, it’s kind of weird. We understand that we have to be ready to compete for 48 minutes.”
He’ll have the services of James and All-Star center Anthony Davis, both of whom missed significant portions of the season.
“Having a healthy Lebron and AD (Anthony Davis) at the right time, the sky is the limit. When they weren’t available, we had to continue to swim and maintain. We were able to improve our roster after the trade deadline.”
“A day I will never forget”
Memphis shooting guard Desmond Bane will be riding the high of a special honor into the opening game of the playoff battle against the Lakers. His alma mater, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, recently honored him with a mural painting on the side of a building.
“It was dope,” said Bane, who was there for the unveiling. “It was a great experience. I am thankful that TCU chose to honor me (on) their 150th anniversary. My friends and family were able to come down and spend time…. It will be a day I will never forget.”
Now locked in on the playoffs, Bane said, “Every possession matters. There will be a bunch of ups and downs in the series. You have to stay levelheaded. You have to focus on the next play and play with one another.”
Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. CDT. The game can be seen nationally on ABC. Game 2 is set to tip off on Wednesday (April 19) at 6 p.m.