The Los Angeles Lakers’ deep playoff run last season came to a screeching halt after the Denver Nuggets swept them in the Western Conference Finals. Several Nuggets players, including former Laker Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, stepped up for the eventual champions in the series.
Caldwell-Pope was Denver’s fourth-leading scorer against Los Angeles, putting up 14.8 points per game while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
The shooting guard recently spoke about Lakers star Anthony Davis, and while Caldwell-Pope said he is still good friends with his former Lakers allies, he reminded the Purple and Gold of what the Nuggets did to them last season.
“We had to give them that butt whipping”.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope talks about the fun rivalry with his former Laker teammates.
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) October 22, 2023
“Last year, I think it was the series before the Western Conference Finals,” he began. “And I had reached out to him, like, ‘Hey, man. I’ve just been watching y’all, doing great, man. Keep it up.’ … He was like, ‘Yeah, can’t wait to see y’all in the Western Conference Finals.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, we ready.’ But just having that camaraderie with your friends and being able to play against them as well, it’s always good. They’re my brothers still. But we had to give ’em that butt whooping. It was personal, but it wasn’t personal.”
Davis and his teammates have gotten some flak around the basketball world for being the only opponent who couldn’t register a win against Denver in the 2023 playoffs.
However, the Lakers were actually competitive against the Nuggets, losing by an average of just 6.0 points per contest. Unfortunately for L.A., none of the close games went in the team’s favor.
Interestingly, there seems to be a potential rivalry brewing between the reigning conference finalists, which was possibly stirred up by Nuggets coach Michael Malone taking a shot at the Purple and Gold and the media for its supposedly excessive coverage of the Lakers during the playoffs.
"If anybody is still talking about the Lakers in the NBA Finals, that's on them. They've gone fishing. We're still playing."
– Michael Malone on the Nuggets making their first NBA Finalspic.twitter.com/XEfRoEu9yn
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) May 26, 2023
LeBron James reportedly grew “very pissed” with Malone and could use that as extra motivation for the 2023-24 campaign. Davis was more direct, as he brought up Denver’s trash-talking earlier this offseason and directed a warning shot to the reigning champions.
Safe to say LeBron and AD are motivated to face the Nuggets after all their trash talk 😈
“It was just a lot of talking. We get it, y’all won, but me and Bron had some conversations… we can’t wait [to play them].” pic.twitter.com/qr8iZGIwll
— Lakers All Day Everyday (@LADEig) October 2, 2023
Fans won’t have to wait long before L.A. and Denver meet again on the court. The squads will open the regular season against each other on Oct. 24. Watching the Nuggets get their championship rings should provide the Lakers with additional motivation for the season.
The budding rivals will face one another again two more times in the regular season. It remains to be seen if a playoff rematch is in the works.