Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James decided to clear the air this weekend after an interview with The Athletic that was published during All-Star weekend caused a bit of drama. LeBron put all 30 NBA teams on notice with his comments about how he will play with his son Bronny in his final season in the league. Elsewhere in the interview he heaped effusive praise on Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti, which many took as a not-so-subtle shot at his own general manager Rob Pelinka for not making any deals before the trade deadline to improve the team.
After Friday’s loss to the L.A. Clippers, LeBron used the postgame news conference to make it clear that any chaos as a result of those comments to were not his fault.
“So it’s so weird that you guys can take — not you guys, whoever started this whole thing — and Bill [Oram, a reporter for The Athletic] doesn’t like the Lakers anyways.”
Whoever started what LeBron? You were the one who said:
“My last year will be played with my son. … Wherever Bronny is at, there’s where I’ll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.”
When you were asked about playing in Cleveland again, you said:
“The door’s not closed on that. I’m not saying I’m coming back and playing. I don’t know. I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t even know when I’m free.”
These were public comments you made, and you chose to elaborate on questions you were asked. If you simply said my focus is the Lakers and didn’t mention Presti, we wouldn’t be dissecting it.
As savvy as LeBron is, he knows exactly what comments he makes will do and the impact they can have.
The Lakers are playing poorly, they’re 27-33 and the playoffs look like a long shot. It was reported by several outlets that LeBron was unhappy the team didn’t make any deals at the trade deadline.
What deals could the Lakers have made? They have no draft capital and no players other teams are interested in. This is a roster devoid of young talent and picks per LeBron’s wishes. But LeBron wanted to clarify that point as well.
“I don’t push the buttons,” James said. “They ask for my opinion, and I voice my opinion and what I believe. But I don’t press any buttons. That’s what our front office is for, and that’s what our leadership group is for. I don’t press no buttons. So we can state that right now.”
LeBron may not actually execute any trades, but he’s understating his influence just a bit. He knows any team he’s on doesn’t want to risk upsetting him. So when he states his opinion, it is often followed. That’s how the Lakers wound up trading for Anthony Davis.
Davis’ then-team, the New Orleans Pelicans, held the Lakers over a barrel because they knew this deal had to happen because LeBron wanted it.
It “worked” because the Lakers won a title. But would they be better off now if they had all those players and picks?
LeBron also gave his opinion that the Lakers should trade for Russell Westbrook last offseason. They did, in exchange for second-round picks in 2024 and 2028, Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell and a 2021 first round pick.
That hasn’t worked out so well as Westbrook is having the second-worst season of his career. Would the Lakers be better with those players instead of Westbrook? Probably.
No matter how you look at it, what the Lakers have right now is exactly what their star player wanted. This is the downside of making every move to appease a player, even possibly the greatest ever.
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