LeBron James

LeBron James Says Lakers “Cater” To Players

The Lakers are expected to explore adding a second star this offseason to play alongside LeBron James. James knows the team’s free agent pitch well, as he signed a four-year deal with Los Angeles last summer, and he anticipates the franchise will play up its tendency to put its players first in pitches this offseason.

“At the end of the day, this franchise wants to win and wants to win big,” James said, as Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register relays. “And the one thing about the franchise, they cater to the players. And that’s it. Everything else comes secondary, they only want us to go out and perform at a high level and play the game at a high level so we can be mentioned with some of the great teams that’s in the league at that point in time.”

Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson are among the big names expected to be available. Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walkers, Tobias Harris will also hit the market. James wouldn’t comment on which player he’d prefer the team to target.

“Not going to name any names because every time I say something, or our organization says something about a specific person we get in trouble,” LBJ said. “But we have an opportunity to get better, and that’s something that is definitely great to know that – when you have an opportunity to get better from a personnel standpoint.”

James is disappointed that the Lakers will miss the playoffs this spring. He added that he’s focusing on health this offseason after missing 18 games this year (the most he’s ever missed in any season).

“It’s unfortunate that we’re so far out of the postseason right now and looking like we won’t be a part,” James said. “So obviously the first thing that comes to mind is just take care of my body. Played a lot of basketball, played a lot of minutes over my 16-year career, so getting an opportunity, getting a couple more months to take care of my body, refresh my mind and my body is going to be very key going into my 17th year, so looking forward to that.”

Lakers Notes: Free Agents, LeBron, Jamison

The Lakers‘ path to a sixth straight non-playoff season began with a string of questionable free agent signings after they landed LeBron James, writes Marc Stein of the New York Times. In a look at what went wrong in L.A. this season, Stein notes that team president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka surrounded James with JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Beasley, a shaky group of shooters who all have checkered pasts.

The Lakers had planned to give LeBron a season to mesh with the team’s collection of young talent before making a bid for Anthony Davis, Stein adds, but that changed when Davis submitted a trade request to the Pelicans in late January. The fallout from repeated leaked offers affected the players who were reportedly involved — Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart — and fractured the locker room, as the players know negotiations will resume in the offseason.

Lakers management will face intense pressure to shake up the organization this summer and produce a winner, Stein notes. Head coach Luke Walton will almost certainly be replaced and a roster overhaul appears imminent. Cap room is available to make another free agent splash, but the front office will have to be much smarter about how it spends its money.

There’s more Lakers news this morning:

  • James remains confident that his team will move in the right direction this summer, relays Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. After Thursday’s loss in Toronto, James was asked about the organization’s ability to appeal to the upcoming free agent class, which includes the Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard. “I think everybody knew that coming into this year it was still going to be challenging even if we were all healthy and played all 82 games,” James responded. “… We have an opportunity to get better this summer through free agency, and through the draft, and I believe our front office and our coaching staff are going to make that happen.”
  • Everyone who suggested the Lakers should shut down LeBron for the rest of the season is missing the big picture, contends Michael Lee of The Athletic. James has little chance of winning three more championships to match Michael Jordan’s six, but he can still pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s career scoring leader. He’s nearly 6,000 points behind and needs to play as much as possible to have a chance.
  • Antawn Jamison, now working as a scout with the Lakers, talks about his aspirations to become a GM someday in an interview with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype.

Lakers Notes: Ball, Ingram, LeBron, Trade Talks

Lonzo Ball was hoping it wouldn’t be necessary, but he understands the Lakers‘ decision to shut him down for the rest of the season, writes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times.

Ball hasn’t played since January 19 when he injured his ankle driving to the basket. He feared it was broken at first, but it turned out to be a Grade 3 sprain, which involves a torn ligament. He was given a four- to six-week prognosis to return, but a bone bruise in the ankle is keeping him out longer.

“It’s just the situation I’m in right now,” Ball said of the Lakers’ decision to end his season early. “So I have no problem with it.”

Ball, who saw his rookie season cut short because of a knee injury, is still traveling with the team and is looking forward to an opportunity to train this summer, which he couldn’t do last offseason. He said he had finally started playing the way he hopes to about five games before hurting his ankle.

There’s more news from Los Angeles:

  • The blood clot issue that forced the Lakers to shut down Brandon Ingram is affecting his trade value, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN. L.A. offered Ingram to the Pelicans last month as the centerpiece of an Anthony Davis deal, but Windhorst doubts that New Orleans would be as interested in Ingram now, even if doctors were to find that he has a low chance for the blood clots to recur. Ingram’s status is also complicated because he’s eligible for a contract extension this summer, and Windhorst doesn’t believe any team could get insurance to cover future blood clot issues.
  • LeBron James is still “fully committed” to the Lakers despite a rocky first season in L.A. and the uncertainty of whether the team can land another star or two, Windhorst adds in the same story. James told Michael Lee of the Athletic that he believes the Lakers will return to the playoffs during his time there and he has given no thought to shutting down this season. “I live being a professional,” James said. “I live playing every game like it’s my last, no matter what’s going on. You finish up strong. That’s just who I am.”
  • Sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe that the Davis trade talks “sapped morale” for some players. He adds that team president Magic Johnson’s lecture after the deadline about treating players “like babies” had the same effect.

Lakers Notes: Bullock, Walton, LeBron, Wagner

The Lakers haven’t exactly played their best basketball since adding Reggie Bullock to their rotation at the trade deadline. The team is just 2-9 in games that Bullock has appeared in so far, and the veteran sharpshooter hasn’t been at his best during that stretch either — his .333 3PT% is well below his career rate (.394). Nonetheless, Bullock has conveyed a desire to remain in Los Angeles going forward, as Ron Gutterman of LakersNation.com relays.

“I would love to be back here with the Lakers,” said Bullock, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. “I was a fan of this organization pretty much my whole life, and the connection me and ‘Bron (LeBron James) are building, it’s continuing to build trust. We’ll see how it plays out in the summer.”

Although Bullock has only played 11 games as a Laker, the club will have his Bird rights as a result of his previous contract with the Pistons. To retain those Bird rights, the Lakers would have to keep Bullock’s $4.75MM cap hold on their books this summer until they work out a new deal.

If the Lakers need to renounce Bullock to create cap room for a marquee free agent, that wouldn’t necessary rule out a return, but the club would be limited to re-signing him using any leftover cap space, the room exception, or the minimum salary exception.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Head coach Luke Walton is considered likely to lose his job at season’s end, despite once being viewed as the sort of coach who could stick in L.A. for the next 10 or 15 years. Matt John of Basketball Insiders argues that Walton doesn’t deserve the blame for the Lakers’ disappointing season, while Bill Oram of The Athletic presents a case for how Walton has been undermined and betrayed by team management.
  • In order to move forward, the Lakers first need to take a long look in the mirror, ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz writes in a deep dive on the franchise. Arnovitz criticizes owner Jeanie Buss for her recent claim that the media is the biggest challenge facing the Lakers, suggesting that the statement makes the team appear incapable of self-reflection. The Lakers are “so infatuated with the glory of their brand that they forget about the essence of their product,” Arnovitz contends.
  • After a surprisingly unsuccessful first season in Los Angeles, it’s impossible for LeBron James to predict what will come next, says Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. However, his friends and former teammates expect him to bounce back from a disappointing 2018/19 season. “Just having that break, being able to reassess and come back really, really highly motivated, I think it’s going to be big for him,” Kevin Love said. “If you get ‘Bron highly motivated, anything can happen.” Dwyane Wade, meanwhile, offered the following assessment: “This is definitely going to make him hungrier for what he’s trying to accomplish next year.”
  • Lakers rookie Moritz Wagner, who racked up a career-high 22 points on Saturday, is hoping to take advantage of an increased role down the stretch, as Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register details.

Lakers Notes: Rondo, LeBron, Ingram, Tanking

Celtics fans who watched Rajon Rondo battle the Lakers in the 2008 Finals could have never imagined he would wind up in purple and gold someday, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Before taking the court against his original team one more time tonight, Rondo explained some of the turns his career has taken since Boston traded him in 2014.

“Not many players have ever been with one franchise their whole entire career,” he said. “I’ve had a great journey. I don’t know where I’ll be next year, but, like I say, Boston hasn’t called since I got traded away. It’s a business. Things happen. Paul [Pierce] didn’t finish as a Celtic. If it was anybody, you’d think Paul Pierce would finish as a Celtic. I mean, he obviously did go back at the end, but even he got traded. Things happen. The ACL [injury] happened, and then they broke up the Big Three the following year. It was just time to go a different way. It’s just how the chips unfolded.”

Rondo hasn’t stayed in one place long since leaving the Celtics. He spent half a season with the Mavericks, then signed one-year deals with the Kings, Bulls, Pelicans and Lakers. Heading into free agency again this summer, Rondo claims, “I feel like I’ve still got four or five more years, but I don’t know where I’ll be.”

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • As his first season in L.A. winds down to a disappointing conclusion, LeBron James is more of an outsider than a hero or villain, Bulpett notes in a separate story. James is taking a lot of heat from media for the Lakers’ losses, while hearing occasional boos from fans who were thrilled when the team signed him. Bulpett adds that many are wondering whether James really wanted to be part of the Lakers’ legacy or just help out his career in the entertainment industry.
  • In a session with reporters before tonight’s game, coach Luke Walton refused to expound on Brandon Ingram‘s condition, other than saying he’s out for the season, tweets Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Among the questions that Walton declined to answer were whether the injury could affect him long term and how Ingram was dealing with the news.
  • With the playoffs seemingly out of reach, the Lakers should spend the rest of the season improving their draft pick, evaluating their young talent and trying to repair their relationship with the Pelicans in hopes of acquiring Anthony Davis, suggests Kevin Pelton of ESPN.

Kyrie Irving Talks LeBron James, Embracing Role In Boston

To label Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving as a mercurial presence in Boston this season would be an understatement. The point guard has garnered huge attention due to a streaky Celtics team, an uncertain future in Boston, his public comments, and his impending free agency.

At times, Irving has expressed frustration with his team and its inconsistent performance. Other situations have called for Irving to answer – and in many cases – deflect questions about his plans this summer. Despite all of that, the Celtics remain a lock for the postseason with Irving, a player with NBA Finals experience.

In a recent interview with Joe Vardon of The Athletic (subscription required), Irving discussed his season in Boston, getting used to negativity and his former teammate LeBron James‘ adjustment to the Lakers. Here are a few highlights:

On LeBron James’ first season in Los Angeles…

“You’re coming to a team like that and you have a lot of the responsibility, and you come back in the middle of the regular season, it’s hard because now other teams are gearing up for the playoffs, that next level of play. Bron knows about it, (Rajon) Rondo knows about it, but Kuz (Kyle Kuzma) and Brandon Ingram, he’s trying to teach these guys well about what it takes to win consistently in this league.”

On the adjustment to being the superstar on a contending team…

“It’s a little maniacal at times and a bit repetitive because you get asked the same questions about the regular season and we all know that, all that goes out the window once you get to to the playoffs. The thing that matters the most is how connected you are as a team heading into the postseason. … The deal that I had to become aware of, that I was signing up for, was like once you become one of the most coveted guys in the league, you’re signing up for basically, like you’re going to be attacked for the rest of your career. You’re going to be praised. You’re going to be brought up, you’re going to be brought down because that’s just the nature of the business.”

On his confidence as a leader…

“My confidence runs deep regardless, but especially when it’s at the highest point of competition, it’s when I did my best. I haven’t had the best games in the Finals sometimes. I haven’t had the best games in the playoffs. I’ve definitely been through some ups and downs. But I think that experience and that carryover from taking (the championship), from the opportunity of being in Cleveland and then taking (the experience) to Boston gives me my confidence in my teammates now.”

Walton: No Guarantee Lonzo Ball Will Return This Season

Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball still isn’t close to returning to the court, according to head coach Luke Walton, who told reporters today that there’s a possibility Ball misses the rest of the 2018/19 season (Twitter links via Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times and ESPN’s Dave McMenamin).

Ball, who will be re-evaluated on Saturday, hasn’t done any on-court work besides dribbling drills and stand-still shooting, per McMenamin. Ganguli notes that the Lakers’ priority is to make sure Ball gets 100% healthy and has a full offseason, rather than rushing him back to play in a few games at the end of ’18/19.

A left ankle injury has sidelined Ball since January 19, during which time the Lakers have slumped badly and fallen to 11th in the Western Conference. Entering that January 19 contest in which the former No. 2 overall pick got hurt, the Lakers were 25-21. Since then, they’re 5-14.

While the Lakers were always weighing the long-term view for Ball, the team is presumably even more willing to be patient now that its playoff chances have been all but extinguished. We heard on Thursday that LeBron James‘ minutes will be monitored going forward, a strong signal that the franchise is waving the white flag on a postseason push.

Speaking of James, Walton confirmed today that the Lakers will be keeping a close eye on LeBron’s minutes going forward. However, as Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet tweets, Walton said that there’s no official, set-in-stone restriction on the star forward’s minutes. There might be games in which James sees normal minutes if the Lakers are playing well, according to Walton.

Lakers To Limit LeBron James’ Minutes

With the Lakers‘ playoff hopes on life support, the team and LeBron James‘ camp have reached an agreement to limit James’ minutes going forward, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (video link).

According to Haynes, LeBron will only play about 28 to 32 minutes per game the rest of the way, and may not play both games in the club’s three remaining back-to-back sets, depending on how he feels. Haynes reports that James’ agent Rich Paul, along with LeBron’s trainer, discussed the plan with the club, and everyone is in agreement.

At 30-35, the Lakers are 6.5 games back of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, with just 17 contests left on their schedule. L.A. would have to go on a huge hot streak and leapfrog multiple teams to reach the postseason, which is a scenario that no longer seems plausible. As such, the franchise will opt to play it safe with its star player in the first season of his four-year contract with the club.

Following the Lakers’ loss to the Clippers on Monday, LeBron suggested that he had no plans to sit games unless he got injured again, but acknowledged that the subject of his playing time would probably be broached before long.

“That conversation hasn’t occurred, but I’m sure it can happen soon,” James said at the time. “You kind of look at the rest of the games, and look at the percentages of what’s going on there in the future, and see what makes more sense for not only me but the team itself as well.”

If the Lakers go all-in on developing their young players in the season’s final month, we can expect to see plenty of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, and Brandon Ingram if and when they’re healthy. Rookies Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga should also be in line for more regular minutes down the stretch.

Poll: Will LeBron James Become NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer?

LeBron James reached another major milestone on Wednesday night, surpassing Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time points list. With 32,311 career points, James is now the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), and Kobe Bryant (33,643).

James’ latest achievement is a reminder that the NBA’s all-time scoring lead remains within reach. LeBron just turned 34 years old in December and has three more years remaining on his contract with the Lakers after 2018/19. While this season has turned into a disaster, the four-time MVP still looks like he has plenty left on the tank, having averaged 27.1 PPG in his first year as a Laker.

Currently, the gap between Abdul-Jabbar’s points total and James’ stands at 6,076. In his first 15 NBA seasons leading up to 2018/19, LeBron averaged 2,069 points per season. If he were to continue at that rate for three more years, he’d become the league’s all-time leading scorer before his contract with the Lakers expires.

Despite James’ impressive durability and longevity over the years, however, it’s probably unrealistic to expect him to continue scoring at that rate. This season, for instance, even if he plays in every single one of the Lakers’ remaining 17 games and maintains his 27.1 PPG scoring average, he’d end up with 1,733 points due to the groin injury that cost him more than a month.

It’s fair to assume that nagging injuries could become a more frequent issue for James in his age-35 season and beyond, and his production figures to dip a little during that stretch as well. Even if we assume LeBron is capable of averaging 1,500 points per season going forward (about 23 PPG in 65 games per year), it would be 2023 before he catches up to Abdul-Jabbar. He’d be 38 years old at that point, so there’s not a ton of room for error (or, say, any season-ending injuries).

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that taking over the NBA’s all-time scoring lead is a realistic goal for LeBron. He’ll likely have to stay relatively healthy and continue playing at a high level for at least two or three more years – or be willing to play until he’s 40 – to have a legit shot, but that certainly seems possible.

What do you think? Do you expect LeBron to retire as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, or will he ultimately end up second or third? And if he claims that No. 1 spot, do you view any current players as serious threats to pass him?

Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

LeBron: “Unless I’m Hurt, I’m Not Sitting Games”

The Lakers‘ slide continued on Monday night, as they dropped a home game to their L.A. rivals, the Clippers, falling further out of the Western Conference playoff picture. With just 18 games to play, the Lakers are now 5.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Spurs, who won a nail-biter over Denver.

While the Lakers’ odds of reaching the postseason are increasingly remote, there are still no plans for the team to rest LeBron James down the stretch. James said as much to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin after Monday’s loss.

“That would take a lot of convincing from [head coach] Luke [Walton] on up,” James said, suggesting that GM Rob Pelinka, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, and owner Jeanie Buss would all need to be involved in that decision. “Unless I’m hurt, I’m not sitting games.”

If the Lakers’ playoff hopes continue to slip away, it would make sense for the team to prioritize its young players down the stretch. Resting James would allow the team to avoid putting unnecessary miles on its franchise player in the first season of a four-year contract. And, of course, with LeBron out of the lineup, the club might end up improving its lottery position as well.

So far, no one from the Lakers has approached James about the idea, according to McMenamin. However, LeBron wouldn’t be surprised if the idea is broached sometime in the coming days or weeks.

“That conversation hasn’t occurred, but I’m sure it can happen soon,” James said.

While the four-time MVP seems opposed to the idea of shutting things down entirely, he acknowledged that if the Lakers’ don’t turn things around in a hurry, monitoring his playing time over the season’s final month would be a possibility.

“You kind of look at the rest of the games, and look at the percentages of what’s going on there in the future, and see what makes more sense for not only me but the team itself as well,” James said.

Here’s more on the slumping Lakers:

  • In a piece examining the problems in Los Angeles, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne writes that LeBron James talked with Magic Johnson before the season about targeting play-makers and guys known for their toughness. The Lakers ultimately ended up going out and signing veterans who fit that bill and were willing to play on one-year deals, which is how the team ended up with players like Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee rather than outside shooters.
  • There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Lakers’ disappointing season, Bill Plaschke writes in a column for The Los Angeles Times. Plaschke points to James, Johnson, Rob Pelinka, and Jeanie Buss as those who are at least partially responsible for the dysfunction.
  • Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report suggests (via Twitter) that there are ongoing whispers about Luke Walton being a candidate for the UCLA head coaching job if he’s let go by the Lakers at season’s end. Luke’s father Bill Walton is a notable UCLA alum.