On Monday, Golden State Warriors rookie Nico Mannion had his first opportunity to play against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, and the matchup was likely one the second-round pick will remember for a long time.
The meeting between the Warriors and Lakers was actually the third of the season, but Mannion did not play in either of the previous two contests. Mannion is beginning to see an uptick in playing time as of late with the Warriors switching up the rotation a bit and finally had the chance to see the Lakers on the court.
Mannion tied a career-high with 10 points in the 128-97 loss while he also had four assists and one rebound in 19 minutes of work. He is now a fixture in the second unit, along with rookie James Wiseman and Jordan Poole but the effort wasn’t enough as the Warriors trailed by as many as 36 points in the second half.
Still, the opportunity to guard James was a highlight for Mannion.
“(I just) try not to let the moment be too big,” Mannion said. “Defend (him) like you’re guarding anybody else, honestly. He is one of the best players ever but you can’t be a fan when you’re on the court. It was definitely a cool moment. Like I said, (he is) one of the best players ever. Being able to guard him on the floor is special for me.”
With it being his first time playing the Lakers, James gave Mannion a rather stiff welcome to the NBA.
During one sequence in the second quarter, with the Lakers set to take the ball up the court, James set a screen to free up Talen Horton-Tucker. Unfortunately, Mannion didn’t see him there and ran right into the shoulder of James.
Seemingly every rookie that enters the NBA has one of those moments where they were welcomed into the league by a star player. The plays are generally never positive and that would certainly be the case on Monday with the wall that Mannion ran into.
In any case, the collision will likely remind Mannion to always keep his head on a swivel…
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