NEW YORK — It was no secret that LeBron James liked Shabazz Napier. The Miami Heat star and four-time NBA Most Valuable Player made his feelings about the UConn point guard crystal clear during the Huskies' March Madness run to the 2014 NCAA championship, suggesting he'd call the Connecticut triggerman's number on late-game possessions:
I'm going Napier high screen and roll again— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 30, 2014
... and hashtaggin' him:
... and celebrating his partnership with Ryan Boatright:
Napier and Boatright controls both ends of the floor. Reminders of Bibby and Simon. That good!!— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 8, 2014
... and, of course, declaring his belief that Napier should be the top point guard selected in the 2014 NBA draft:
No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier.— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 8, 2014
Multiple decision-makers disagreed with LeBron's assessment, as four point guards — "international man of mystery" Dante Exum (Utah Jazz), Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics), Louisiana-Lafayette lead guard Elfrid Payton (Orlando Magic) and Syracuse's Tyler Ennis (Phoenix Suns) — came off the board in the first 18 picks of the opening round.
When the Charlotte Hornets pulled the trigger on Napier at No. 24, it seemed that he'd been scooped up by Rich Cho to serve as the backup point guard to fellow Husky alum Kemba Walker. As it turned out, though, LeBron would get his man (and the man the Heat had been rumored to be targeting in the days leading up to the draft):
Charlotte is trading Napier to the Miami Heat, league source says.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 27, 2014
Miami will send Charlotte the 26th pick and a second rounder for Shabazz Napier, league source tells Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 27, 2014
This, as you might expect, pleased the King:
Coming off an postseason that saw the Heat's top two point guards, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, struggle mightily to do much of anything, Miami clearly wanted to find an across-the-board upgrade in the backcourt. The 22-year-old native of the Roxbury section of Boston — who averaged 18 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game for the national champion Huskies last season, shooting 40.5 percent from 3-point range and averaging just under three turnovers in 35 minutes per game — could very well qualify.
It remains to be seen whether James, who this week exercised the early termination option on his contract to enter free agency this summer, will re-up with the Heat for the next few years. If he does, though, he'll come into camp in the unique position of both having LeBron's blessing and having to live up to the burden of being James' chosen point man.
"I don't know if I'm bringing him back [to Miami]," Napier said. "I would love it. Me and leBron's relationship, he's a great guy. I've been to his camps. Me and him chatted a few times at his camps. He's just a special thing."
And, it seems, a passionate tweeter on the subject of Shabazz.
"My agent just told me that he tweeted something about me just now," Napier said. "It's just something special to know that one of the best players in the world thinks about you and appreciates you for your talent."
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