Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone doesn’t consider the Los Angeles Lakers as rivals despite a pair of recent postseason meetings and an offseason laden with verbal jabs.
“That’s not a rivalry,” Malone told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “I mean, you can’t play a team in the Western Conference finals twice in the last couple of years and think it’s a rivalry. When I think of rivalry, I think Boston-L.A. I think of the (New York) Knicks and the Miami Heat back in the day.
“But I don’t welcome it or not welcome it (with the Lakers). I’m on 2023-24. I’m not living four months ago.”
The Nuggets swept the Lakers in four games in May’s Western Conference finals before knocking off the Miami Heat to win their first title in franchise history. After advancing to the Finals, Malone criticized those who were still discussing the eliminated Lakers, saying they’d “gone fishing” while his team was preparing to play for a championship.
After winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy, Malone joked on the “Pat McAfee Show” in June that he was “thinking about retiring.” The comment was an apparent dig at Lakers star LeBron James, who said he was considering hanging up his boots following the Nuggets series but later confirmed he’d return for at least one more season.
Then, during Denver’s championship parade and rally, Nuggets commentator Vic Lombardi further teased Los Angeles when he brought Malone on stage and introduced him as “the Lakers’ daddy.”
“In these playoffs he became the Lakers daddy.”
The Nuggets and Mike Malone continue to troll the Lakers 😭 pic.twitter.com/Wh6VM88Wbk
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) June 15, 2023
The subtle barbs caught the attention of Lakers forward Anthony Davis, who addressed the remarks Monday during the team’s media day.
“It was just like, a lot of talking and … it was just so much of that going on,” Davis said on Spectrum SportsNet, courtesy of ESPN. “Like, ‘All right, we get it, y’all won.’ But, I think, me and Bron had some conversations like, ‘We can’t wait (to face them again.)'”
Davis, James, and Co. won’t wait long, as the Lakers and Nuggets will compete in the NBA’s regular-season curtain-raiser Oct. 24. However, Malone isn’t bothered by his opening-night opponents potentially drawing motivation from the offseason taunts.
“Oh, they’re talking about us?” he asked Youngmisuk on Wednesday. “That was what, four months ago? I can’t speak for anybody in L.A. But if they’re still worried about us, that’s on them.”
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