One can hardly find a basketball complement bigger than LeBron James having “big-time confidence” in a player — just like he does in Malik Monk, according to Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach David Fizdale.
Monk’s career reached another level since he signed a minimum contract with L.A. in the offseason. Since returning from his bout with the coronavirus (COVID-19), the 23-year-old’s been averaging 20.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. He’s also earned a spot in the Lakers’ starting lineup — and the Kentucky alum loves his new role.
Monk’s success in big part comes down to the chemistry he’s developed with James. The two unequivocally feel comfortable sharing the floor and have been one of the Lakers’ main offensive weapons lately.
It turns out Monk had been on James and then assistant coach Jason Kidd’s radar even before the talented scorer moved his talents to L.A. last summer.
“It’s funny, just a little quick backstory,” the four-time NBA champion said after a recent win over the Sacramento Kings.
“Me and J. Kidd, we talked a lot last year, we wanted [Malik Monk] last year. When Charlotte stopped playing him last year, or they would play him and then sit him for five or six games and then they would play him, and then you would see him have a game in Miami where he had like eight or nine threes in Miami and then they would sit him and not play him again.
“J. Kidd would talk all the time like, is there a way we can snatch this guy from their roster? So through patience and through timing, we were able to get him this summer, which is still kind of doesn’t make sense to me. But we’re happy to have him, he’s a dynamic player, and I always just think about that two-headed monster they had at Kentucky with both of those guys, him and De’Aaron, they literally were just electrifying just taking turns.
“So we’re happy to have him here.”
James has taken Monk under his wing, trying to help him make the most of his tremendous offensive talent. That must have been a dream come true for the guard, who recently said he’s been “studying Bron forever.”
Monk opens up on difficult 2021 free agency process
Monk’s breakthrough season with the Lakers came after the disappointments of last year’s free agency. The Charlotte Hornets gave up on the former 11th overall pick, making him an unrestricted free agent even though they could extend his rookie contract for a fifth year.
Then, the Lakers turned out to be the only side seriously interested in signing the 6-foot-3 guard, which “hit him hard,” Monk said.
“It was crazy for me because … you never see that many lottery picks that get to be unrestricted [free agents],” he said after Monday’s practice. And it kind of hit me hard when nobody really wanted me besides the Lakers so I just put fuel in my tank and just held it in until I get time to play and prove I belong for long periods of time, and that’s what I’m doing right now. But yeah, it was hard for me.
“Some days I didn’t know what to think, some days I was like ‘God is gonna do what’s best for both of us’ and it’s been happening. I’ve been playing good and I’m gonna continue to keep doing that.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!