After stinking up the joint with a disastrous 0-for-7 shooting performance in Monday’s preseason opener, LeBron James was in much better form Wednesday night, pacing the Lakers with 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting (3-of-6 from downtown) in a loss to Phoenix. That game was played in Las Vegas, where, a night earlier, a showcase was held in nearby Henderson, Nevada for NBA hopefuls Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson, both projected as top picks in next year’s draft.
A 7’4” forward from France, Wembanyama showed why many consider him the most coveted prospect since James himself, going nuclear with 37 points, four rebounds, five blocked shots and, most impressively, seven three-pointers in an exhibition loss to G-League Ignite. While James didn’t attend the game in person (Chris Paul and reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson both did), the Lakers vet has nothing but respect for Wembanyama, a player he acknowledges as a “generational talent.”
“Everyone’s been a ‘unicorn’ over the last few years, but he’s more like an alien. No one has ever seen someone as tall as he is, but [also] as fluid and as graceful,” said James, giving a scouting report of the French seven-footer. “His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers out of the post, step-back threes, catch-and-shoot threes, blocked shots. He’s for sure a generational talent and hopefully he continues to stay healthy. That’s what’s most important.”
James also gave props to Henderson, who left high school a year early to go pro, joining the G League over scholarship offers from Louisville, Wake Forest, Texas Tech, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech, among other powerhouse programs. “It was the two best players in the draft on the floor [Tuesday] night,” said James, who enters his 20th season needing 1,326 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who he claims to have “no relationship” with) for the most in NBA history. “They both did their thing. He’s a big-time player and Scoot is a big-time player as well.”
James also confirmed he’d be interested in bringing a team to Vegas as a part or even majority owner, echoing commissioner Adam Silver’s claim that NBA expansion is “inevitable.” When James attended the Las Vegas Summer League back in July, he and teammate Russell Westbrook didn’t appear to be on speaking terms, though the two shared the court for a significant portion of Wednesday night’s game, with Westbrook ultimately contributing 12 points in the losing effort.