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#pounditSaturday, June 25, 2022

Articles tagged: LeBron James

Top NBA reporter addresses speculation about LeBron James’ future with Lakers

LeBron James warming up

One leading NBA reporter has got something to say about the rampant speculation recently over LeBron James’ future in Los Angeles.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania spoke this week on “The Pat McAfee Show” and addressed James’ situation with the Lakers.

“I personally right now don’t see a scenario where LeBron James is bolting the Lakers,” he said. “I don’t see that scenario … As of right now, LeBron James, from everything that I’ve been told, his plan is to be a Laker. His plan is to be a Laker for the foreseeable future and to ride this out.”

Frustration is mounting right now for James and the 27-31 Lakers. The team failed to make a single move at the trade deadline, and they are also now out on several top buyout targets like Goran Dragic, Tristan Thompson, Dennis Schroder, and Kemba Walker. The Lakers’ continued failures both on and off the court are even creating a war-like atmosphere between James and the organization, according to some indications.

Granted, James, who is still under contract through 2023, has plenty of non-basketball reasons to stay. Los Angeles is a desirable place to live, and James has plenty of business opportunities at his disposal since Hollywood is right in his backyard. Even if James does want to leave the Lakers, there are some rumors that one of his top potential destinations might not even want him.

Photo: Dec 9, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) warms-up prior to the game against the Memphis Grizzles at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Cavaliers might not want LeBron James back?

LeBron James looking on

If LeBron James again decides to tell the Cleveland Cavaliers, “I’m back,” they may have a two-word response of their own for him — “No thanks.”

Veteran NBA writer Marc Stein cast some doubt on the possibility of James returning to Cleveland for a third stint in a post to Substack this week.

“In conversations with people I had in Cleveland, I think it’s just assumed that the Cavs would jump at the chance to get LeBron back … and I really don’t think that’s the case,” Stein wrote.

The Los Angeles Lakers star James, who can become a free agent in 2023, ignited speculation about another homecoming during All-Star Weekend in Cleveland. James hinted that he was open to one more hurrah with the Cavs.

But it makes sense that the Cavs themselves may not want that on their end. At 35-23 this season, this is their first real taste of success without James on the roster. Cleveland has focused on developing young and/or homegrown talent with players they drafted like Darius Garland and Evan Mobley plus players they acquired like Jarrett Allen and Lauri Markkanen. Garland and Allen were All-Stars this season, and another player that the Cavs drafted, the injured Collin Sexton, has blossomed into a 20-point-per-game scorer.

For as much talent as James has, he comes with his own set of headaches. The four-time MVP has a tendency to domineer his teams, ruining young player development, butting into roster decisions, and waging war against management when things do not go his way. We have even seen plenty of that this season with a franchise as storied as the Lakers.

James will be going on 39 by the time that he becomes a free agent. With the amount of scrutiny that James attracts and the dysfunction that he brings, it is hard to blame the Cavs if they do not see James as worth it any more, especially since they are already living their best lives without him.

Photo: Jan 21, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James in ‘early days of war’ with Lakers’ front office?

LeBron James looking on

The relationship between LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers appears to be in a bad place at the moment, and there is apparently a sense among some people that the worst is yet to come.

A story this week claimed Rich Paul, who represents LeBron James, Anthony Davis and other Lakers players, is unhappy with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and the team’s front office. The frustration reportedly stems from L.A.’s decision to not trade for John Wall ahead of the deadline. On Wednesday, Bill Oram of The Athletic said a source told him the friction between James, Paul and the Lakers feels like “the early days of war.

The Lakers are 27-31, so it is hardly a surprise that players are unhappy. It’s clear they don’t have enough to contend for a title, yet they chose not to make any moves at the deadline. That seemed like an admission that they are looking toward the future, which is something the 37-year-old James does not want to hear.

Of course, LeBron was the one who pressured the Lakers to trade for Russell Westbrook last offseason. That move has been a disaster, which is why many find it ironic that James seemed to take a subtle shot at his team’s front office recently.

LeBron is under contract through next season, but he’s going to do everything he can to pressure the Lakers to improve their roster. That has already begun, hence all the reports of tension. If the Lakers aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to make their aging superstar happy, the next roster move LeBron tries to orchestrate could be his own exit.

Photo: Jan 21, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Rich Paul upset with Lakers over failed trade

Rich Paul on the phone

The Los Angeles Lakers’ poor season and trade deadline inactivity has increased tensions around the organization. One issue that may loom large is the relationship between the team’s general manager and the agent of its star player.

Relations between Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports, which represents James, and Lakers GM Rob Pelinka have worsened recently, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Paul and Klutch were reportedly particularly angered by Pelinka’s refusal to trade Russell Westbrook and a first-round pick to Houston in exchange for Klutch client John Wall. The Lakers did not see Wall as a basketball upgrade, but Klutch saw the trade as undoing what it sees as a mistake in acquiring Westbrook while simultaneously freeing Wall from Houston.

Klutch represents both James and Anthony Davis, which inevitably puts the Lakers in a tough spot. The organization has ceded significant power to James, and there is some backlash when the Lakers are unwilling to do what his camp might prefer.

Reports have indicated that financial concerns also played a role in the Lakers’ refusal to swap Westbrook for Wall. Whatever the case, James seems to have been sending some subtle messages toward Pelinka. If this report is any indication, Paul feels the same way about things right now.

Photo: Jan 12, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; NBA agent Rich Paul talks on the phone prior to the game between the Charlotte Hornets and Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James had message for Coach K about Kobe Bryant during 2008 Olympics

Kobe Bryant

A new book about Mike Krzyzewski has been making some headlines since excerpts were published.

At first, a story went viral that discussed how Coach K disagreed with Duke’s pick for his successor. Now, another story is making headlines.

On Thursday, SI published an excerpt from Ian O’Connor’s book “Coach K” about the Duke coach. The excerpt talks about Coach K’s time leading the “Redeem Team” in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

Coach K worked hard to get the team’s players to buy in and trust him. He had to get the buy in from Kobe Bryant, the most noteworthy player on the team. He also worked to get LeBron James to trust him, as this was before James had won anything of note as a player.

Krzyzewski felt the team’s players had accepted his message and were on board, but things got tested early in the Olympics during a close win over Australia.

Kobe apparently took some bad shots in the second half of the game and didn’t play much team ball. The players recognized Bryant was playing selfishly, and James even made a remark to Coach K that the coach needed to address things.

From the excerpt:

“Everyone knew it,” says one Team USA staffer. “They know when another player is being selfish. Players can police themselves, but in this instance, as LeBron was coming out of the game, he said to Mike, ‘Yo, Coach, you’d better fix that motherf—–,’ as he walks by. He was talking about Kobe.”

Sure enough, Krzyzewski listened and addressed things with Kobe. He met with Bryant at some point after the game and showed the late Lakers guard some film of the shots Bryant had taken despite having teammates who were open. Bryant accepted the criticism and told Coach K he understood the message and would be better.

It was agreed that everyone — from the coaches to the players — handled things as they should have. And the US ended up redeeming themselves from 2004 by winning gold in 2008.

The excerpt sure does a good job of selling O’Connor’s book. So did the report about Coach K’s successor.

Photo: Apr 13, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant (24) reacts against the Utah Jazz in the first quarter at Staples Center. Bryant concludes his 20-year NBA career tonight. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James opens up about possible return to Cavaliers

LeBron James looking on

LeBron James has left the Cleveland Cavaliers twice during his NBA career. The first time he did it, he ultimately returned a few years later. Could that happen again?

James discussed the possibility in a new interview with Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. The Los Angeles Lakers star made clear that he had not given any thought to the possibility, but notably left the door open to it.

“The door’s not closed on that,” James said Saturday. “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.”

James also reiterated that his aim is to end his career playing alongside his son Bronny, who would be draft-eligible in 2024. The elder James even went as far as to say that money would be no object in that scenario.

“My last year will be played with my son,” James said. “Wherever Bronny is at, that’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.”

James is eligible for free agency after the 2022-23 season. That would leave him one year before his son is due to enter the league. He could certainly opt to stick with the Lakers, or even assess other opportunities in the hunt for a championship. Cleveland could even be an option at that point, as an ex-teammate has mused.

The money and fit would have to work, and that could be complicated if the Cavaliers continue to progress and ascend toward the top of the Eastern Conference. A reunion is definitely not off the table, though.

Photo: Jan 21, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Did LeBron James disrespect James Harden at All-Star Weekend?

LeBron James warming up

LeBron James may have gone back into LePassiveAggressive mode at All-Star Weekend this year.

The Los Angeles Lakers star had his All-Star media availability on Saturday and was asked about Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Josh Giddey, who is having a breakout first season in the NBA.

“The MVP over there is [Thunder GM] Sam Presti,” said James, per Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated. “He the MVP. Josh Giddey is great. Sam Presti, I don’t understand this guy’s eye for talent. He drafted KD [Kevin Durant], Russ[ell Westbrook], Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Josh Giddey, and the list goes on and on and on. This guy is pretty damn good.”

Of course, there was one highly notable omission from James’ list of the talented players drafted by Presti — Philadelphia 76ers guard and former MVP James Harden. Many saw it as an intentional omission, as James is known for his excellent memory and for not doing anything by accident.

Durant, Westbrook, and Harden were the Big 3 in Oklahoma City. When he was with the Miami Heat, James even faced them in the NBA Finals in 2012. Mentioning Durant and Westbrook but not Harden is like mentioning Tim Duncan and Tony Parker in San Antonio but omitting Manu Ginobili. That is not even to say anything of mentioning guys like Jeff Green and Reggie Jackson over Harden.

Harden is not a very popular guy right now because of the manner in which he supposedly forced his way out of Brooklyn. He had some reported issues with Durant, whom James is close with, as well as with Kyrie Irving, whom James at least used to be close with. James is also known for taking subtle shots at others (we saw one earlier this week too), so it is not implausible that he may have been throwing some shade here at Harden.

Photo: Dec 9, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) warms-up prior to the game against the Memphis Grizzles at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Did LeBron James throw shade at Lakers’ front office?

LeBron James looking on

Did LeBron James throw some shade at the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office? That’s what some believe.

Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead went viral for the T-shirt he wore to his team’s Super Bowl parade on Wednesday. Snead’s shirt mentioned the meme about him saying “f— them picks” (see it here).

The saying comes from Snead’s perceived attitude about draft picks. Snead traded away many top picks in exchange for valuable players, like Matthew Stafford, Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller.

James seems to like that kind of attitude from a GM, one who is willing to throw away the future in order to build the best roster in the present.

James responded on Twitter to a tweet showing off Snead’s parade shirt.

“LEGEND! My type of guy!!” James wrote about Snead and his shirt.

What does that have to do with the Lakers?

The Lakers did not make any moves at the trade deadline even though their players felt they needed to do something. The front office reportedly took the approach that players like James and Anthony Davis helped build the current roster, so now it’s their mess to clean up. James may feel like the Lakers should have done more to improve this year’s team.

The problem is the Lakers have very few assets left after trading away most of their future picks in order to get Davis, which helped them win the championship in 2020. They are currently paying the price for the “f— them picks” approach.

Photo: Jan 21, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Lakers linked to ex-LeBron James Cleveland teammate in buyout market

LeBron James warming up

LeBron James already plays with one of his best friends in Carmelo Anthony and plays for one of his former Miami Heat coaches in David Fizdale. Now the Los Angeles Lakers could be making James feel even more at home.

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported on Wednesday that the Lakers are a team to keep an eye on for veteran big man Tristan Thompson if Thompson secures a buyout from the Indiana Pacers. Scotto also says of the Lakers that Thompson “certainly has a lot of relationships there.”

The 30-year-old Thompson was one of James’ most trusted teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Thompson started at center for many of the Cavs’ Finals runs, including during their NBA title season in 2016. Thompson is also represented by Klutch Sports, like James and Anthony Davis.

This season, Thompson is posting 6.0 points and 5.2 rebounds in only 15.2 minutes per game combined between the Pacers and the Sacramento Kings. James has always had Thompson’s back over the years, and now it could be Thompson’s turn to give back, as the Lakers could badly use his rebounding.

Photo: Dec 9, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) warms-up prior to the game against the Memphis Grizzles at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James has concerning comments about his latest injury

LeBron James looking on

The Los Angeles Lakers need LeBron James to be Iron Man in order to have a shot this season. Unfortunately however, they are getting a reminder that the only true Iron Man is Tony Stark.

James spoke with reporters after team practice on Tuesday and made some concerning comments about the knee injury that he is currently battling.

“It’s the same as my ankle, when I had the high ankle sprain last year,” said James. “The only way it’ll be back to full strength is rest, and I don’t have the luxury of having rest. So gonna have to wait till the offseason.”

James’ high-ankle sprain last year derailed the Lakers’ season. He missed 26 of the team’s final 30 regular season games and still did not have the same lift in the playoffs, where the Lakers lost in the first round to Phoenix.

This year, James has battled swelling in his left knee, which recently forced him into a five-game absence. He is now playing through the injury, but it is extremely worrisome to hear him admit that it will only get better with rest … rest that he cannot afford to have.

The Lakers are significantly worse when James sits, forcing them to lean on him for his heaviest minutes since he was in Cleveland. But the Lakers are still 26-31 overall, and James is starting to sound very frustrated. All the tread on the 37-year-old’s tires may finally be catching up to him.

H/T Ralph Mason on Twitter

Photo: Jan 21, 2022; Orlando, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports