During a media scrum at a Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice five years ago, a reporter asked LeBron James if he’d heard that “a kid from Cincinnati” was closing in on his high school scoring total.
James didn’t miss a beat: “Who, Luke?”
Luke Kennard, then a senior at Ohio’s Franklin High School (about 40 miles north of Cincinnati), passed James on the state’s all-time scoring list, securing the second position with 2,977 points. James ended his career at Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary with 2,646 points, which stands as the fifth most.
James went on to explain that he was very familiar with Kennard: “He plays on my AAU team – he’s good, he’s going to Duke,” he said. “He’s one of my kids, that’s great. I’m happy for him.”
Kennard – a fourth-year guard who made his official Clippers debut on Tuesday after signing a four-year, $64 million contract extension on Monday – said James’ support as an up-and-comer was pretty cool.
Also cool? Lacing them up and competing against him now in the NBA, as he did in the season opener on Tuesday night against James’ Lakers at Staples Center.
“It’s a great experience,” Kennard said. “I played for his travel team when I was in high school. Just being from Ohio, he was a player I looked up to growing up, so I have a lot of respect for LeBron. Just over the last few years of playing in the league, just being able to interact with him a little bit, he’s been great.
“Going back to high school, we had a little bit of a relationship. Didn’t talk on a day-to-day basis or anything like that, but I did play for his travel team and he knew of what was going on in Ohio with me and the scoring and (getting) close to his scoring record and stuff. Much respect to him.
“It’s been cool over the last few years to interact with him and play against a guy like that.”
James’ support then helped a young Kennard find his way to Duke and the Clippers, who invested in him with the significant extension on Monday.
Clippers coach Tyronn Lue applauded the deal before Tuesday’s game.
“Very excited for our team and our organization, very excited for Luke,” Lue said. “Ge just brings a guy who can shoot the basketball off the dribble, off of screens, catch and shoot, but also can play-make, put the ball on the floor and run pick-and-roll, create plays for other guys as well, so he’s a good all-around player for us.”
MORRIS SIDELINED, BATUM IN
New Clipper Nicolas Batum started on Tuesday in place of Marcus Morris Sr., the only Clipper who was unavailable for the season opener, suffering from knee soreness that also kept him out of action during all three of the Clippers’ preseason games.
Lue has said he felt confident inserting the veteran Batum into the starting lineup, as he had during the Clippers’ three dress rehearsals – all losses.
“He’s a 6-9 veteran, he plays the four, the three, a little bit of two as well, great passer, great ball handler, just adds another dimension to our team, as a guy who can dribble, pass and shoot. And he can guard three or four different positions, so that’s our thinking going into it.”
Morris made an appearance behind the Clippers’ bench pregame during the Lakers’ championship ring ceremony, soaking in his twin brother Markieff’s success as he accepted his jewelry. Clippers guard Patrick Beverley was nearby, watching his teammate take in the moment.
The Morris twins are the best.
Here’s Marcus filming Markieff getting his ring. pic.twitter.com/oVLN5YiEe0
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) December 23, 2020