Chauncey Billups was there more than 20 years ago when LeBron James played in his first NBA game, a preseason contest in Detroit against Billups’ Pistons.
He was there again Friday, now coaching the Trail Blazers in Portland with grey speckled into his beard, still watching James go to work.
Now 7,351 days into his legendary NBA career, James is still delivering, leading the Lakers to a 107-95 win in Portland, keeping the Lakers undefeated in the in-season tournament.
He shook his head after he glided to the basket for an early score. He pointed at his arm after he swished home a three-point shot, and flexed and shrugged his shoulders after playing through contact in the fourth.
He finished with 35 points, tying his season high, while collecting nine assists, showing only the faintest signs of slowing down in his 21st NBA season.
“To see that and just to see him now, it’s just incredible, man,” Billups said before the game. “What he’s been able to do, what he’s been able to continue to do. We all, one day when we get really old, we’ll be telling our grandkids and stuff that we watched that whole movie. So we’re all pretty lucky to be able to say that.”
The Lakers finish pool play in the inaugural in-season tournament Tuesday against the Utah Jazz and can clinch a place in the single-elimination portion with a win.
Friday in Portland, the Lakers never trailed, getting positive contributions from each of the main eight players in coach Darvin Ham’s rotation.
Cam Reddish’s point-of-attack defense helped create a handful of Portland’s 19 turnovers, which led to 27 points. Anthony Davis shook off a slow shooting start to score 16 points and grab 14 rebounds with five blocks and three steals. And Christian Wood had one of his best games off the Lakers’ bench with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
The Lakers play Sunday in Los Angeles against Houston.