LeBron James

LeBron James Has No Plans To Sit For Load Management

With the Lakers off to a league-best 7-1 start, led by the performance of LeBron James, the team’s superstar has no plans to miss games if he’s healthy, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes.

“If I’m hurt, I don’t play. If not, I’m playing,” James said to ESPN after L.A.’s Lakers’ 95-80 victory against the Heat Friday night. “That’s what has always been my motto.”

James, who will turn 35 in December, is in the midst of another characteristically strong season. He’s averaging 26.1 PPG and an NBA-best 11.1 APG for the Western Conference-leading Lakers. However, he is also coming off a season in which he suffered his first major injury, a torn groin that sidelined him for several months.

With fellow California superstar Kawhi Leonard regularly missing games for “load management,” there has been a lot of talk this fall about players sitting games despite being healthy enough to play. The Clippers were, however, fined $50K for providing conflicting statements on Leonard’s health status.

James refused to address Leonard or any other player and their plans to stay healthy for the duration of a season.

“I’m healthy, I play,” he said. “I probably got a good 45 years to not play basketball.”

And-Ones: Kuzma, NCAA, Vujacic, Agents

Kyle Kuzma will make his debut for the Lakers on Friday and LeBron James is happy to have him back with the club, as Sacha Pisani of Sporting News relays.

“He hasn’t played since USA basketball when he had the stress reaction,” James said “Obviously he’s been training and working out, but like I always tell you guys, there’s no substitution for game fatigue and game stamina.

“That will come, though. It’s great to have him back on the floor. We definitely missed him.”

Here’s more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Sasha Vujacic wants to return to the NBA, as tells Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times. “I love the game so much, and I don’t want to walk away yet,” Vujacic said. “I’m in the best shape of my life right now. I work out every summer with DeAndre Jordan, and he said the same thing. I’m 35, but I feel like I’m 25. As long as I have that desire and fire inside of me, I’m going to keep pushing.”
  • The NCAA has begun the process of allowing student-athletes to benefit from their name and likeness, as their website announces.
  • Longtime NBA agents Roger Montgomery and Derrick Powell are teaming up to form the Elite Athlete Group, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com relays (Twitter link). Powell previously worked with Ja Morant.

And-Ones: Duval, G League Draft, NBA Rosters, Williamson

Trevon Duval has signed a G League contract and is eligible for this Saturday’s draft, Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days tweets. Duval was a two-way player for the Rockets last season and became a free agent when the team didn’t give him a qualifying offer this summer. He was claimed by Houston in March after the Bucks waived him. The former Duke guard made three cameo appearances with Milwaukee.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Journeyman center Hasheem Thabeet, former Lakers guard Vander Blue, and forward Trey Mourning, son of Alonzo Mourning, are some of the more interesting names on the list of players eligible for the G League draft, according to a league press release. The Northern Arizona Suns have the first pick.
  • There are 108 international players from 38 countries and territories on current NBA rosters, according to a league press release. The most-represented countries among the 108 international players on opening-night rosters are Canada (16 players), Australia (nine players), France (eight players), Croatia (seven players) and Serbia (six players). The Mavericks lead the league with seven international players.
  • Zion Williamson‘s knee injury created disappointment for the NBA’s TV partners, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic explains. TNT and ESPN wanted nationally-televised games featuring the Pelicans during the opening week of the season to showcase Williamson. They were stuck showing the Pelicans without the top pick in the draft on the court because it was too late to make a change. Vardon goes in-depth on how the national TV schedule is designed and notes that the Lakers play 21 of their 30 nationally -televised games after New Year’s Day because the networks wanted to feature LeBron James and Anthony Davis during the team’s playoff push.
  • Amida Brimah, the former UConn center who was in training camp with the Pacers, has suffered a torn right ACL, Scott Agness of The Athletic tweets. He was slated to join Indiana’s G League team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.  Brimah will undergo surgery next week, Agness adds.

Lakers Notes: Opening Night, LeBron, Kawhi, Jones

Kyle Kuzma is not playing for the Lakers tonight against the Clippers as he recovers from a stress reaction in his left foot. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com, it’s not clear how long Kuzma will remain sidelined.

“He’s on no-contact, half-court now,” coach Frank Vogel said of Kuzma. “I’m sure we’ll build up to no-contact, full-court with sprinting or potentially half-court with contact. I’m not sure which direction they’re going to take it next, but there will be a progression this week building him up.”

Vogel added that Kuzma has been “impatient” with his injury but is “on board with the plan” that the team has to get him back at full strength.

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • LeBron James could envision a world where Kawhi Leonard was also on the Lakers, but he isn’t sure why the reigning Finals MVP picked the Clippers in free agency, as McMenamin relays in a separate piece. “Man, how the hell can I answer that? I don’t [expletive] know,” James said jocularly when asked what convinced Leonard to sign elsewhere. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Ask Kawhi.”
  • Anthony Davis said he had a role in attempting to recruit Leonard. “It was fun just to go through it, for me, with a player like Kawhi, trying to recruit him to come here. It was fun,” Davis said (via McMenamin in the same article). “We had one conversation, and I think he came out with a statement, or his uncle or something … somebody said he don’t really like all the recruitment and all that stuff, so I felt like I overstepped my boundaries…But it was a fun process. I would do it all over.”
  • The South Bay Lakers have traded the G League rights of Jemerrio Jones to the Wisconsin Herd (Bucks‘ affiliate), per a team press release. The Lakers’ affiliate will receive the No. 8 overall pick in the upcoming G League draft and the Herd’s 2020 first-rounder for Jones, who was recently waived by the Wizards and signed by Bucks on an Exhibit 10 deal.

NBA/China Notes: LeBron, Silver, Yao, Tencent

After making some eyebrow-raising comments about Rockets GM Daryl Morey and the NBA/China controversy on Monday, LeBron James briefly addressed the subject again on Tuesday, telling reporters that he hopes tension between the two sides dies down. However, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com details, James made it clear that he doesn’t want to continue discussing the situation going forward, preferring to focus on the Lakers‘ quest for a championship.

“I’d be cheating my teammates by continuing to harp on something that won’t benefit us,” James said. “We’re trying to win a championship. That’s what we’re here for. We’re not politicians. It’s a huge political thing. But we are leaders and we can step up at times. I’m not saying at this particular time, but if you don’t feel like you should speak on things, you shouldn’t have to.”

James’ critical comments of Morey didn’t go over well in Hong Kong, where protestors chanted support for the Rockets’ GM on Tuesday, per an ESPN report. At that protest, LeBron jerseys were trampled and even burnt.

Here’s more on the ongoing NBA/China situation:

  • Commissioner Adam Silver never did meet with Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming while he was in China, but they were speaking at least 10 times per day, a person with knowledge of the situation tells Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times.
  • Ganguli also writes that the NBA’s Chinese streaming partner Tencent, which suspended its broadcasts of preseason games in the wake of Morey’s tweet, resumed those broadcasts on Monday without explanation.
  • Dave McMenamin of ESPN shares an engaging deep dive into the Lakers‘ and Nets‘ meeting last week with Silver in Shanghai, providing details on how LeBron and Kyrie Irving spoke up during that session. Among McMenamin’s interesting tidbits: James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, and Rajon Rondo all had promotional appearances in China canceled, with one unnamed Lakers player losing a $1MM endorsement deal with a Chinese company due to the controversy. Based on a separate report from Bill Oram of The Athletic, that player may have been Kuzma.
  • In a column on the China controversy, Sam Amick of The Athletic notes that Morey’s initial tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors was sparked by a specific development. Sources tell Amick that Morey’s message came in response to a new law enacted in Hong Kong banning face masks during public gatherings. The law is “widely seen as a tactic to identify dissidents,” Amick adds.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Kuzma, LeBron, China

The Lakers provided some injury news on two of their key players on Monday, issuing updates on Anthony Davis and Kyle Kuzma.

As we noted on Monday afternoon, an ESPN report indicated that an MRI on Davis’ sprained right thumb came back clean, which the Lakers essentially confirmed late last night. According to the team (via Twitter), AD is being listed as day-to-day after undergoing tests on his thumb, which suggests he still has a decent chance of playing in the team’s regular-season opener a week from tonight.

Meanwhile, Kuzma, who was diagnosed last month with a stress reaction in his left foot, has been cleared for non-contact activity, per head coach Frank Vogel (Twitter links via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN). Asked about Kuzma’s status for next Tuesday’s opener, Vogel responded, “We’ll see,” adding that the forward will also be considered day-to-day.

As we wait to find out whether Davis and Kuzma are ready to go for opening night, here’s more on the Lakers:

  • In his first public comments on the NBA/China controversy on Monday night, LeBron James was critical of Rockets GM Daryl Morey, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details. James speculated that Morey was “misinformed” and “wasn’t educated” about the situation in China when he sent his now-infamous tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors.
  • James later sought to clarify his comments in a pair of tweets, suggesting that he meant Morey didn’t understand the ramifications his message would have. James also said the tweet was poorly timed, since the Lakers and Nets showed up in China just a few days later and had a “difficult week.” However, LeBron was still widely criticized for his stance, with Dan Wolken of USA Today calling it “the most disgraceful moment” of the superstar’s career.
  • Mark Medina of USA Today takes a look back at the Lakers’ “difficult” week in China, exploring how they coped with being placed in the middle of an international incident. As Medina writes, Vogel referred to the team’s time in China as a “really productive trip” despite the unexpected drama.
  • Dwight Howard‘s presence on the Lakers’ roster this season is a reminder of what’s at stake for the franchise with Anthony Davis this season, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Howard’s previous one-and-done stint with the Lakers in 2012/13 is, of course, exactly what the team wants to avoid with Davis.

NBA/China Notes: Lakers, Nets, Rockets

While a debate raged stateside last week over the NBA’s handling of a controversy fueled by a Daryl Morey tweet expressing support for Hong Kong protestors, Lakers and Nets players found themselves in the eye of the storm as they prepared to play a pair of exhibition games in China. As Shams Charania of The Athletic and ESPN’s Rachel Nichols report, those players met with commissioner Adam Silver to discuss potential next steps when he arrived in Shanghai last Wednesday.

Charania describes Silver as being “extremely thoughtful and transparent” in talks with Lakers and Nets players, coaches, and executives, while Nichols refers to the meeting as “tense.” Multiple sources tell Charania that LeBron James said he believed Silver and the NBA had a responsibility to talk to the media about the situation in more depth before asking the players to do so. Players also spoke about wanting to feel safe and protected during the China trip without being put into unfair positions, Charania notes.

“Being in China, where there was no way of knowing what the Chinese government was thinking or going to do next and the high stakes between the U.S. and China politically, it was almost impossible for these young players to manage through that situation,” a source with knowledge of the meeting told Charania. “Obviously, if they were in the United States or somewhere else, it would have been totally different and handled differently.”

The exhibition games in Shanghai and Shenzhen took place as scheduled, though there was some skepticism earlier in the week that they would happen at all. According to Charania, a “sizeable amount” of players on the Lakers and Nets felt as if it would be best to cancel those games due to the ongoing chaos.

With both teams now back in America, here’s the last on the NBA/China saga:

  • Sources told Charania that some Lakers and Nets players lost money over broken deals in Shanghai, since they ended up not making planned sponsorship appearances. Charania also reports that at least two Rockets players had sponsorship negotiations with Chinese companies hit an impasse in the wake of Morey’s tweet.
  • Several executive and ownership sources who spoke to Charania believe Silver will “regain a foothold” in the league’s relationship with China, but fear “irreparable losses” for the Rockets going forward. China’s response to Morey’s tweet may end up costing the Rockets approximately $25MM in sponsorship money this season, one source estimates to Marc Stein of The New York Times.
  • During last week’s meeting with Lakers and Nets players in Shanghai, Silver was asked directly whether anything would happen to Morey, per ESPN’s report. According to ESPN, multiple players said they thought that if a player cost the league millions of dollars with a tweet, there would be repercussions. Morey won’t face any discipline from the league, which seems like the right call, since his message ostensibly showed support for human rights and democracy.
  • Tom Ziller of SBNation explores the two potential paths the NBA/China controversy could take from here.

Lakers Notes: AD Trade, LeBron, Pelinka, More

When David Griffin arrived in New Orleans as the Pelicans‘ new head of basketball operations, he was faced with a predicament related to Anthony Davis, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Sources confirm to McMenamin that there was some lingering resentment toward the Lakers within the Pelicans’ organization – all the way up to ownership – due to the way AD’s public trade request played out earlier in the year. However, Griffin also recognized that L.A. was the most logical trade partner for New Orleans.

“When I took over, there was some latent discontent, maybe with the way things had been handled,” Griffin said. “We just talked about the fact that, look, in all likelihood the best package is going to come from this team, because it’s the only team that AD’s willing to stay at.”

As McMenamin details, agent Rich Paul had signaled to the Celtics and other suitors that Davis wouldn’t re-sign with them in 2020, since the big man wanted to play in New York or Los Angeles.

“The last thing you want to do is put a GM in a situation where he trades away an asset and then the guy walks out the door,” Paul said. “Like, you can’t do business that way. So it’s not really a hard conversation to have. And I don’t think it stopped [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge from trying. It’s just that maybe he didn’t have the deal [he wanted]. He wasn’t willing to give up the young players, which I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t give them up either if the guy is not going to re-sign.”

The Pelicans’ big win on draft lottery night helped clear a path for the team to work something out with the Lakers for Davis, as Paul observed to McMenamin: “The fact that [the Pelicans] were going to get the first pick caused me to understand that it softened the blow of losing Anthony Davis because the organization could still have some momentum.”

McMenamin’s story at ESPN provides an in-depth look at several other aspects of the Lakers’ pursuit and acquisition of Davis, as well as the franchise’s adjustment to having him on the roster. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said that even on the day the Lakers and Pelicans reached a trade agreement, there were a couple times he was convinced a deal wouldn’t come together. But the front office persevered in part because they believed they owed it to LeBron James. “When a player of LeBron’s stature puts his trust in the organization,” Pelinka said, “I think there’s an implicit bilateral trust going back, saying: ‘We’re going to do everything we can to put you in a position to win more championships, because that’s what you’re about.'”
  • Pelinka, who added that he believes in treating his superstar players “like partners,” admitted that he has probably had hundreds of three-way calls with James and Davis since the trade as he has solicited their opinions on certain roster moves. “Every single decision. I [have] never been involved so much,” Davis said. “No matter who the player was, he wanted to make sure. It was on everything. And it was like, ‘Wow.’ To the point where I was like, ‘All right, Rob, stop calling me.'”
  • Kendrick Perkins, who was teammates with LeBron in Cleveland and AD in New Orleans, had a hand in bringing the two stars together. The veteran big man introduced Davis to Klutch Sports in 2018 when word got out that he was considering an agent change, writes McMenamin.
  • Rich Paul believes that Davis’ ability to make threes and pass the ball separates him from other stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo. AD’s agent offered the following spicy take: “If you put Anthony Davis on that Bucks team last year, they’d be playing in the Finals. He knows how to make guys better. That’s not a knock to Giannis, but that’s just what [I think].”
  • The NBA was willing to allow LeBron to give up his jersey number (23) to Davis despite the paperwork not being filed in time, but Nike nixed the idea, citing tens of millions of dollars in wasted inventory on James jerseys, sources tell McMenamin.

LeBron & AD “Like A Fantasy Team”

It didn’t take long for the Lakers‘ new duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis to make an impression on the NBA, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Playing their first game together in front of a prime time TV audience, they looked dominant in a 22-point destruction of the Warriors. Although neither played in the second half, Davis finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while James registered 15 points and eight assists.

“AD’s AD,” James said afterward. “I thought he was great from the beginning of the game, just his offset on the offensive end just to be able to get us extra possessions with rebounding. Knocking down shots. I think he had like five dunks in the first half. And communication on the defensive end. He’s a very cerebral player. It was a good start for him.”

The Lakers acquired Davis from the Pelicans in one of the first major moves of the offseason. Although the price was high, with three players and three first-round picks going to New Orleans, L.A. sees th ebig man as part of its foundation for the future and possibly its ticket back to the NBA Finals.

That looks very possible after last night’s debut, which included three straight dunks by Davis in a 43-second stretch of the first quarter. The first came on an offensive rebound, followed by a pick-and-roll with James, then an alley-oop from Rajon Rondo.

“I was just trying to attack the offensive glass and be aggressive and get myself going,” Davis said. “I haven’t played in a while, so I was just trying to do all the little things, and the ball ended up in my hands, so I just went up and dunked it and got myself going.”

New coach Frank Vogel is still figuring out what his starting lineup will look like alongside the two former overall No. 1 picks. Avery BradleyDanny Green and JaVale McGee started last night, but Vogel said he will continue to experiment throughout the preseason.

Regardless, the focus all season will remain on Davis and James, the Lakers’ premier additions from the past two summers, and whether they can make the franchise one of the NBA’s best again. The early returns are impressive, even to opponents.

“It’s different seeing all those big guys on the floor at the same time,” Warriors guard D’Angelo Russell said. “LeBron playing point alongside those dudes. It’s cool. It looks like a fantasy team or something.”

L.A. Notes: Leonard, L. Williams, LeBron, Bradley

Kawhi Leonard understands that he has an opportunity to make history by leading a third team to an NBA title, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Robert Horry and John Salley both won rings with three franchises, but neither played a starring role like Leonard did in San Antonio and Toronto. He’s a team leader now for the Clippers and has a chance to bring a championship to the city where he grew up.

“That would be a great accomplishment,” Leonard said. “That feat would be something to talk about once I’m done playing, and being able to do that in my hometown would be amazing. Growing up, [Staples Center] was one of the first NBA arenas I ever went to. So to do all of that here would be special. But we have work to do first.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The addition of Leonard and Paul George will mean a reduced role for Lou Williams, but the three-time Sixth Man of the Year is ready to adapt to whatever is necessary, relays Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Even though he came off the bench, Williams often ran the offense and served as the top scorer late in games. Having two stars on hand means those duties will now be shared. “At the end of the day, I am a sixth man, I am a backup,” Williams said. “No matter how much you dress it up, no matter how much history I’ve made, no matter how many special things I’ve done off the bench, I’m still a backup and I understand that to the core of me.”
  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers tells Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times that he briefly quit the team in 2013 after former owner Donald Sterling vetoed the signing of J.J. Redick. The incident happened less than a week after Rivers was hired, and he changed his mind when Sterling relented the next day.
  • LeBron James is ready to prove he’s still among the league’s elite players after the longest offseason of his career, Vardon writes in a separate story. LeBron’s summer included shooting “Space Jam,” working on his game and spending time with family and friends, but for the first time in 13 years it didn’t include the playoffs.
  • Avery Bradley has quickly emerged as the Lakers‘ most feared defender, observes Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Bradley is glad to be back in Los Angeles after ending last season with the Grizzlies“This is a whole new opportunity for me to prove myself each and every night,” he said. “There’s no bigger stage than this. Each and every night, every opportunity I get I’m going to try to prove, to show the world I’m the best perimeter defender in the NBA.”