LeBron James

Kyrie Irving Called LeBron James To Apologize

Following the Celtics‘ big Wednesday night win over Toronto, Kyrie Irving told reporters, including Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com, that he recently called former teammate LeBron James to apologize for resisting criticism and not fully appreciating his leadership during their time in Cleveland.

“Obviously, this was a big deal for me, because I had to call ‘Bron and tell him I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything at my threshold,” Irving said, per Bontemps. “I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that, and the responsibility of being the best in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people.

“[LeBron] was one of those guys who came to Cleveland and tried to show us how to win a championship, and it was hard for him, and sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world,” Irving added.

Irving’s comments came just a few days after he publicly expressed frustration with some of his younger teammates during the Celtics’ three-game losing streak. As a veteran in Boston, Kyrie has essentially assumed the sort of leadership role that LeBron had in Cleveland, and acknowledged that he made a mistake by calling out his teammates in the press.

“I did a poor job of setting an example for these guys of what it’s like to get something out of your teammates,” Irving said. “You go and you say something publicly and it ends up received in so many different ways and you never know how fragile or what guys are going through when you say things like that. You’re expecting results, but at the same time, I should’ve kept it in-house. Going forward, I want to test these young guys, but I can’t be a bully like that.”

In a fascinating twist, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports that James was actually having dinner with the other member of the Cavaliers‘ old Big Three – Kevin Love – when Irving called him to apologize. While LeBron missed Kyrie’s call at the time, he returned it privately later, according to Vardon, who hears from a source that James was “very appreciative” that Irving reached out to him.

As Vardon observes, Irving’s admission is a “pretty big deal” to anyone involved with Cleveland’s four-year run of NBA Finals appearances. The trade that sent the star point guard to Boston was essentially the beginning of the end of that mini-dynasty, so hearing Irving confess that he didn’t handle the situation as well as he could have creates some tantalizing “what-if” scenarios.

Still, Irving didn’t go so far as to say he regretted forcing his way out of Cleveland — he welcomes the challenge of leading the Celtics to a title of their own. He also believes he has a better idea now of what it takes to assume that sort of leadership role and wants to share his perspective with the younger C’s.

“Now I’m in this position; I asked for this and I want this. I want the responsibility. And I take it on full force,” Irving said, according to Bontemps. “But it’s also good to reach out for help and really take responsibility for what you’ve done in your career. It takes a real man to go back, call somebody and be like, ‘Hey, man, I was young. I made some mistakes, I wasn’t seeing the big picture like you were. I didn’t have the end of the season in mind.’ I just wanted to get my stats and make All-Star Games, which in his career means like this much at that point. So it was just good, and it gave me a peace of mind to go about what I’ve gotta go do.”

Latest On LeBron James, Lakers

LeBron James won’t travel with the Lakers on the team’s upcoming two-game road trip to Oklahoma City and Houston, the club announced today in a press release. However, James – who continues to recover from a groin injury – has been cleared to practice once the Lakers return next week.

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin first reported that James would miss at least two more games, noting that the four-time MVP hasn’t officially been ruled out for Monday’s showdown vs. the Warriors. LeBron won’t have much practice time under his belt at that point though, so returning for that game would be a best-case scenario.

In a conversation with Sam Amick of The Athletic, agent Rich Paul said that James hasn’t targeted any specific return dates and won’t get back on the court until he’s fully healthy. Stressing that “we’re not on nobody else’s timeline,” Paul noted that he and his client don’t want to risk re-injury by coming back too soon.

According to Paul, doctors initially estimated that James would miss between three and six weeks. The injury occurred just over three weeks ago, so LeBron remains right on track, and won’t let the Lakers’ recent slump accelerate his timeline.

“Obviously he cares (about the team’s struggles),” Paul said. “The man wants to play. He’s f—ing itching to play, but he can’t put himself in that situation. It’s just, you’ve really got to do the right thing and it has zero to do with his age, or the fact that he’s played 16 seasons – nothing to do with that. This is a tendon. It’s not a shoulder, or an ankle, or an elbow. The smart thing to do is to do the smart thing. You can’t allow media, or the fact that the team might be losing, to dictate what’s best for you, and we won’t. He’s progressing. He’s not ready yet.”

Here’s more on LeBron and the Lakers:

  • James’ groin issue is already the worst injury of his 16-year career. He’s also on track to set a new career-high in games missed — he has never sat out more than 13 in a single season, and if he misses Monday’s game against Golden State, it would be 14 in 2018/19. Joe Vardon of The Athletic takes a closer look at how LeBron is coping with a rare health problem.
  • The Lakers’ struggles without James have – perhaps unfairly – increased the pressure on head coach Luke Walton, whose seat appears hotter than ever before. Multiple sources tell ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, however, that Lakers management “continues to project support” for Walton, both publicly and privately.
  • Walton shouldn’t be blamed for the Lakers’ recent slide, according to Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times, who suggests that president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka should take responsibility for assembling a mismatched roster.

Lakers Notes: Playoffs, Walton, Ball, Ingram

In an NBA Insiders piece for ESPN, writers Kevin Arnovitz, Chris Herring, Brian Windhorst, Andre Snellings, and Kevin Pelton discuss the Lakers’ playoff chances with superstar LeBron James missing extended time with the groin injury he suffered on Christmas Day against the Warriors.

As one may expect, the consensus among the writers is that the Lakers will still probably make the playoffs, assuming James doesn’t suffer a setback during rehab and miss additional time beyond what was reasonably foreseen.

With approximately 40 games remaining, the general opinion from the ESPN scribes is that James will probably have to play somewhere around 30 to 35 of those games for the Lakers to feel safe about their playoff chances, meaning LeBron needs to be back relatively soon.

In addition to the playoff race, other topics discussed include the identity of the Lakers’ second-best player, whether the team should and/or will make a big trade before the deadline, and where the Lakers’ ceiling stacks up relative to other teams in the Western Conference. The entire article is worth a read.

There’s more from the purple and gold this afternoon:

  • If the Lakers do miss the playoffs, it will be a “nightmare scenario” for the NBA and its “broken playoff format,” writes Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. The Lakers could potentially miss the postseason with 45 wins while the sixth, seventh, and eighth seeds in the Eastern Conference could all have losing records. Having one of its most popular franchises shut out of the playoffs while three teams in the East make the playoffs with inferior records could be the catalyst for change the NBA playoff system needs.
  • Sam Amick of The Athletic sat down for an extensive one-one-one conversation with Luke Walton to discuss him working in his dream job as the head coach for the Lakers, the team’s much-needed win in Dallas earlier this week after his challenge to his young players to play with more passion, and the overall challenge of both coaching and playing without James.
  • The Lakers continue to wait for both Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram to blossom into what a team ultimately expects of players taken No. 2 overall in the draft. But as Mark Heisler of the Orange County Register writes, time is running out. On July 1, the Lakers could potentially trade for the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, one of the best players in the NBA. And if they do so, both Ball and Ingram may be going to the Big Easy unless they show their worth the rest of the season.

LeBron James Out At Least Three More Games

The Lakers will have to get by without star forward LeBron James for at least a few more games. According to a press release issued today by the team, James is making progress in his recovery from a strained groin and has been cleared to increase his on-court “functional basketball movements,” but won’t be re-evaluated until next Wednesday.

James suffered his groin injury on Christmas Day, with his team rallying in his absence to complete a blowout win over Golden State. The Lakers lost five of their next six games without LeBron, but have bounced back this week after head coach Luke Walton challenged some of his younger players. Los Angeles beat the Mavericks in Dallas on Monday and picked up a home win over Detroit on Wednesday.

Even if James is cleared to play when he’s re-evaluated next Wednesday, that timetable will keep him out of action for the Lakers’ next three games. He’ll be sidelined for the team’s contests at Utah (Friday), vs. Cleveland (Sunday), and vs. Chicago (Tuesday).

After those three games, the Lakers’ next three are against Oklahoma City, Houston, and Golden State, so LeBron figures to do all he can to get back for some or all of those Western Conference showdowns.

In James’ absence, the Lakers figure to continue leaning heavily on starting forwards Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram, with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope playing a major role off the bench and Michael Beasley also seeing some minutes.

LeBron James To Miss At Least Four More Games

Injured Lakers star LeBron James will be re-evaluated in one week, the team announced today in a press release. That means that James, who continues to battle a strained left groin, will miss at least Los Angeles’ next four games.

James suffered his groin injury on Christmas Day, with his team rallying in his absence to complete a blowout win over Golden State. However, the Lakers are just 1-3 since then, splitting a pair of games against the Kings and dropping home contests to the Clippers and Thunder.

The Lakers’ upcoming schedule features a home game vs. the Knicks tonight, followed by contests in Minnesota on Sunday and Dallas on Monday. LeBron won’t travel with the team on that brief road trip, according to today’s announcement, and he’ll miss next Wednesday’s game vs. Detroit too. Next Friday’s game in Utah looks like the earliest possible return date for the four-time MVP.

The Lakers will also be without Rajon Rondo for a few weeks due to a hand injury, and Kyle Kuzma is considered questionable for Friday as he deals with a back contusion. L.A. is currently in the No. 8 spot in the West with a 21-17 record, so it will be interesting to see if the short-handed club can win some of its upcoming games and hang onto a playoff spot until LeBron returns.

Injury Updates: LeBron, Cousins, Paul, Gordon, Fultz

Lakers superstar LeBron James did some shooting but little else during practice on Tuesday, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. He will miss his fourth straight game on Wednesday due to a groin strain suffered on Christmas Day. It remains uncertain how much more time he’ll need to return. “He’s working on his body, his game, himself all the time. But that’s the first time I’ve seen him shoot [since the injury],” coach Luke Walton said. The Lakers are 1-2 without James.

We have more injury news from around the league:

  • DeMarcus Cousins is still uncertain when he’ll make his debut with the Warriors, Marc J. Spears of ESPN writes. Cousins has practiced with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors and was involved in private 5-on-5 scrimmages with Warriors teammates last week, Spears notes. “It will mean everything when I get back,” Cousins said. “All the hard work. The dedication. Good and bad days. Tears, cramps and pain. Everything.”
  • Rockets guard Chris Paul has “no clue’ when he’ll return from his left hamstring strain, according to Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle. Paul has missed the team’s last eight games.
  • Rockets guard Eric Gordon is hopeful his bruised right knee will heal fast enough to allow him to play against Golden State on Thursday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Gordon, who suffered the injury on Saturday, is waiting for the swelling to go down. “I can’t really do a whole lot,” Gordon said. “They didn’t tell me an actual time frame. I know if I’m able to run. I don’t care how much pain I have, I’m going to play.”
  • Sixers second-year guard Markelle Fultz will be re-evaluated early next week for his thoracic outlet syndrome condition, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The top pick in the 2017 draft hasn’t played since November 19th. Philadelphia remains hopeful that Fultz can return this season.
  • Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday after missing the last 10 games with a quad strain, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Cousins, Kings, Suns

After losing their first two games without LeBron James in the lineup, the Lakers picked up a win over Sacramento in Sunday. The victory is the latest signal that the club’s young core is capable of greater things, even without veteran leaders like LeBron and Rajon Rondo available, Kyle Kuzma said after the game, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com.

“We are not just one player,” Kuzma said. “We just got to eliminate little mistakes and we could have won all three games [without them]. For us, it is just continue to keep getting better and better and when those guys get back, hit the ground running.”

Meanwhile, while James continues to recover from the groin injury currently keeping him on the shelf, he appeared on the latest episode of ESPN’s ‘More Than An Athlete’ and made some interesting comments about his spot in NBA history. Addressing the 2016 NBA Finals, which saw his Cavaliers knock off the 73-9 Warriors, LeBron said that he felt that win “made me the greatest player of all-time” (video link).

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • With his debut for the Warriors getting closer, DeMarcus Cousins spoke to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated about what he called “the longest year of my life.”
  • The Kings have been perhaps the most surprising team in the NBA this season, unexpectedly vying for a playoff spot in a competitive Western Conference. As Matt John of Basketball Insiders details, Sacramento is enjoying success in 2018/19 despite making several roster moves that seemed questionable at the time.
  • In terms of length and athleticism, the Suns see some similarities between their current roster and their ‘Seven Seconds or Less’ teams from the mid-2000s, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “Just a lot of athleticism,” new Sun Kelly Oubre said. “When we’re at our best, we get stops and we get out in transition and we score. The ball is moving around. Everybody is touching it. Everybody is moving. That’s when we’re at our best. It’s just a lot of length out there. A lot of athletes and guys who can guard multiple positions. It’s kind of difficult for teams to turn downhill.”

Pacific Notes: Oubre, Shumpert, Lakers

After getting off to a very rough start, the Suns have started to turn things around, winning five of their past nine games. The recent success is mainly a result of strong play from their two franchise cornerstones Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, but Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype writes that Kelly Oubre‘s positive impact shouldn’t be overlooked.

As Kennedy points out, Oubre is averaging 14.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.3 threes and 1.0 blocks per game, while shooting 47.4 percent from three-point range since joining the Suns several weeks ago. Ayton and Booker have loved the energy and “swag” that Oubre has brought to the team and perhaps more importantly, Oubre fits with the team’s timeline as they continue on a rebuilding path.

The Suns are still evaluating what they have in some of their young players, but it’s safe to say that the team continues to show more promise as Booker and Ayton lead the way on a nightly basis.

There’s more from the Pacific division:

  • An afterthought when acquired back in February, Iman Shumpert has taken up a leadership role with the Kings this season as his play has improved. Jason Jones of The Athletic details the valuable presence that Shumpert has had for this young Kings team.
  • As a result of recent struggles in the face of LeBron James‘ injury, is it better for the Lakers to stay patient or make a win-now move? Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report tackles this challenging question.
  • Speaking of those struggles, Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register details the Lakers‘ inability to close out games with James not playing. A recent buzzer-beating loss to the Kings and fourth quarter unraveling against the Clippers highlighted the room for growth for the Lakers’ young core.

Dwayne Wade “Knew” LeBron’s Goal Was L.A.

When Dwyane Wade​ signed with the Cavaliers before the beginning to the 2017/18 season, he wasn’t expecting his eventual trade back to the Heat. But, he also didn’t think he’d spend any more than one season in Cleveland, primarily because he didn’t think his best friend LeBron James would be in Cleveland for the 2018/19 season either, reports Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

“LeBron,​​ first of all, he’s a guy who always plays his cards close to the vest, but I knew his ultimate goal was to be in Los Angeles,” Wade told Vardon. “He recruited me and he talked to me about signing there (Cleveland), and I said, ‘Listen, I know you might not be there long, you’re gonna be a free agent and there are some things that might happen, and we’ll have a conversation.’ I just thought I’d make it through the season first.”

Per Vardon, part of the reason why Wade knew LeBron was going to leave for the Lakers was because of his own free agency-related history with James, who left Miami for Cleveland in 2014 without telling Wade after Wade had already opted out of his own contract with the Heat. Wade ultimately came to the conclusion that LeBron would leave for L.A. the day after Wade was traded to Miami last season.

“It wasn’t like he came out said ‘Oh, you’re traded, I’m going to the Lakers,’ but like I said I knew where his heart was and what he was thinking big picture.”

NBA Issues Memo Reminding Teams Of Tampering Rules

The NBA has issued a memo to all 30 of its teams, reminding them about the rules – and warning them of the consequences – related to tampering, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The league’s statement to clubs indicates that “employment contracts are to be respected and conduct that interferes with contractual employment relationships is prohibited.”

The memo is presumably a response to last week’s mini-controversy, which arose after Lakers star LeBron James said it would be “amazing” to play with Pelicans big man Anthony Davis. As Wojnarowski detailed last Friday, the NBA’s lack of response to those comments upset several general managers around the league, especially those in smaller markets. Among those GMs, there’s a perception that the NBA turns a blind eye to tampering violations when big-market teams go after smaller-market stars.

An NBA spokesperson issued a statement to Woj last week to explain why the league didn’t view James’ comments as tampering. Still, it seems the league office found it necessary to further clarify its tampering-related rules as speculation about a possible Davis trade continues.

“Teams should be aware that the scope of the anti-tampering rule is broad, and its application in any given case is based on all facts and circumstances,” the NBA’s memo reads, per Wojnarowski. “Accordingly, conduct that doesn’t violate the rule in any single instance may nevertheless constitute a violation if it becomes repeated or part of a broader collection of improper actions. Teams should therefore refrain from any conduct – including public statements – that could be viewed as targeting or expressing interest in another team’s player.”

The league also warned that respecting other teams’ contracts with players is particularly important in “today’s media environment,” since public comments speculating about potential player movement receive “immediate and widespread” attention and coverage.

“Teams should be entitled to focus their efforts on the competition this season with the players they have under contract, without having to divert attention or resources to conduct or speculation regarding the potential destinations of those players in future seasons once their contracts expire,” the NBA said in its memo.