Maybe it’s too soon to start comparing Ben Simmons to LeBron James.
But you won’t offend the Cleveland Cavaliers star if you want do stack up the LSU freshman against him.
“I don’t mind it,” James said Friday before the Cavaliers took on the Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center. “Someone’s going to be compared to someone all the time. I don’t mind him being compared to me. People are just recognizing what he does on the court.”
James recognized it long before Simmons started posting huge numbers —he’s averaging 19.9 points, 14.9 rebounds and six assists — for the Tigers. Simmons worked one of James’ camps over the summer, and even before that he was on James’ radar.
“I’ve watched him a lot, but I’ve watched him way before he showed up in Baton Rouge,” James said. “I’ve been on him for probably three or four years now.”
James said he’s “not surprised” Simmons is off to a fast start, saying LSU coach Johnny Jones “allows him to showcase his talent.”
Pelicans star Anthony Davis plays just an hour from the LSU campus, but he’s yet to see Simmons in action. His experience with the versatile Australian comes strictly from highlights, he said.
Still, Davis understands the comparison game. He’s been on both sides of it in the NBA.
“When I came in, it was ‘He’s Marcus Camby. He’s got Kevin Garnett (in his game),’ ” Davis said. “Now it’s like, ‘People got Anthony Davis.’ It’s a good honor, but it’s still kind of crazy to hear.”
Simmons has drawn plenty of comparisons to James for his ability to score, rebound and involve teammates. He doesn’t have James’ physical strength at this stage, but at 6-foot-10 and 225 pounds, he’s two inches taller than James’ listed height.
And if he wants it, Simmons, who was at Friday’s game, has James as a mentor.
“We’ve had our conversations,” James said. “The kid knows that I’m here for him whenever he needs me.”
Starts and fits
The Pelicans’ starters on Friday — Davis and Alonzo Gee at the forwards, Omer Asik at center and Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon in the backcourt — marked the 14th starting lineup coach Alvin Gentry has used in 20 games.
If Gentry has his way, it’ll be the last change for a while.
“We’re going to try to stay with that lineup for a little while, see if we can get some consistency in what we’re doing,” Gentry said. “Now that we’ve got some healthy bodies back, we’re going to try to put people back in roles that they’re comfortable with.”
Because point guard Jrue Holiday still is restricted from playing games on back-to-back nights, moving him to the bench allows the Pelicans to start the same lineup whether or not he’s available.
That’s one reason for the move, Gentry said. So is the chance to play Holiday and backup guard Norris Cole together off the bench. The Pelicans were 31.3 points per 100 possessions better than the Warriors in the 44 minutes that duo played together in last season’s playoffs.
“What we’re trying to do is get to the point where we have a lineup, we’re going to play with that lineup and then establish some roles off the bench that’s going to be pretty consistent,” Gentry said.
True to your school
Davis said he got “about 100 calls” from Holiday on Thursday. They weren’t talking strategy or locker-room chemistry.
Instead, Davis said, Holiday was calling “after every play” of UCLA’s upset of No. 1-ranked Kentucky on Thursday night in Los Angeles. Holiday played his college ball with the Bruins. Davis was a Wildcat.
Holiday’s brother Aaron, a UCLA freshman, had 10 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as the Bruins handed Kentucky its first loss.
“We did beat the No. 1 team in the country,” Jrue Holiday said. “But I didn’t let (Davis) have it too bad, because last year we only had seven points (against Kentucky) at halftime. Just a little friendly competition.”