LeBron James

LeBron James Reaches 40,000 Career Points

LeBron James hit another career milestone tonight, becoming the first NBA player ever to score 40,000 points. The Lakers star needed just nine points coming into the game against Denver and reached the historic mark with a layup early in the second quarter (video link from Dave McMenamin of ESPN).

The game stopped briefly, and the Lakers honored James with a video tribute, tweets Johan Buha of The Athletic.

After scoring 31 points on Thursday, James talked to Buha about what it means to him to reach a scoring figure that was once thought to be impossible.

“To be able to accomplish things in this league, with the greatest players to ever play in this league, the NBA, this has been a dream of mine and to hit feats and have milestones throughout my career, they all mean something to me. Absolutely,” James said. “Obviously, there’s a pecking order of which ones are higher than others, but absolutely. I would be lying to you if I said it doesn’t mean anything. Because it absolutely does.”

James became the league’s leading scorer on February 7 of last year when he passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career total of 38,387 points, with the Lakers’ legendary center on hand to witness the achievement. James remains an elite scorer even after turning 39 in December. He’s averaging 25.3 PPG in 53 games this season and hasn’t been below 25.0 PPG since his rookie year.

James told Buha that he hasn’t considered how high his point total might climb before he retires.

“I never thought about getting the scoring record,” he said. “It just happened organically. I played the game the right way and went out and played the game and let the game come to me and the scoring record happened organically for me. It was never a goal of mine when I came into the league, like I wanted to be the all-time leading scorer. But I’m still playing. And I can still score the ball so it’s going to go up until I’m done playing.”

Pacific Notes: Thompson, Beal, Gordon, Lue, James

Warriors coach Steve Kerr revealed that Klay Thompson initially balked at the prospect of being the team’s sixth man, he told ESPN’s Kendra Andrews. Thompson yelled at Kerr and some members of the staff during a meeting prior to the All-Star break before later returning to apologize.

“It was not an easy conversation,” Kerr said. “This is maybe the hardest part about getting further away from our prime. It’s just, after 12 years [of Thompson starting], it wasn’t easy. And still moving forward, it’s not going to be easy. But I told him, ‘If you really embrace it, you can help your team win.'”

Thompson said the All-Star break helped ease his mind over the coaching staff’s plan.

“It was having a complete reset, a huge mental reset. It helped so much,” he said.

Thompson stated in an interview with The Athletic’s Sam Amick that his new role wouldn’t play into his decision during free agency this summer. Thompson, who is eligible for a four-year extension, remains open to a shorter-term deal, according to Andrews.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns had three late scratches on Thursday against Houston, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Bradley Beal missed his fifth straight game due to left hamstring injury management. Eric Gordon sat out with left groin soreness. They were listed as questionable on Wednesday. Nassir Little didn’t suit up due to left knee inflammation after not being on the initial injury report.
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue had a health scare when he was coaching Cleveland due to stress and poor eating and sleeping habits. He’s learned from that experience and has a much healthier diet and exercise plan, he told Andscape’s Marc J. Spears. “I’ve been working out. Eating better. I still have my moments. [I’m] eating less. It’s been good,” Lue said. “(Strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro) has done a good job of staying on me because I can stray away. I’m just doing 20 to 30 minutes per day … Now I’m about 208 [pounds]. Back [in Cleveland] I was 241. I can’t believe I got that big.”
  • LeBron James sparked the biggest fourth-quarter comeback of his career against the Clippers on Wednesday in the two teams’ final matchup as cohabitants of Crypto.com Arena. The Lakers rallied from 21 points down with the aid of three three-pointers early in the fourth from James, who finished with 34 points. “It’s just a zone, and you can’t really describe it,” James said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “You wish you could stay in it forever, but obviously it checks out once the game ends. But during it, you don’t feel anything. It’s just like a superpower feel.

And-Ones: Holiday, Team USA, Galloway, Top 2024 FAs

Celtics guard Jrue Holiday is expected to be a part of the Team USA roster that competes in the 2024 Olympics in Paris this summer, sources with knowledge of the situation tell Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic. According to The Athletic’s duo, there’s a belief that Holiday has made a commitment to USA Basketball officials in recent weeks.

Holiday is one of several players who are considered locks for the 12-man U.S. roster as long as they remain healthy and interested. Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, and Jayson Tatum also fall into that group, per Charania and Vardon.

Holiday holds a player option for the 2024/25 season, but he’ll become eligible to sign a long-term extension with the Celtics on April 1 (he’s technically extension-eligible already, but can only currently sign a short-term deal). Getting an extension done this spring would put the veteran guard in position to compete with Team USA this summer without having to worry about an unresolved contract situation.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Jaylin Galloway, a 21-year-old forward who played for the Sydney Kings in Australia’s National Basketball League this season, is generating NBA interest and is a candidate to sign with a team before the end of the 2023/24 season, Marc Stein writes in his latest article at Substack. Galloway played in last July’s Las Vegas Summer League with the Timberwolves, who are one of many teams around the NBA with an open roster spot.
  • LeBron James, Tyrese Maxey, and Paul George sit atop a list of the top 25 free agents of 2024 compiled by Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. James and George are considered likely to remain with their respective teams in Los Angeles, while Maxey will be a restricted free agent and will almost certainly sign a lucrative long-term deal with Philadelphia.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic takes a look at the NBA’s new rule requiring players to appear in at least 65 games for award consideration, noting that it was a priority for the league ahead of negotiations for its next media rights deal. As Vorkunov writes, before the rule was implemented, at least one the NBA’s major television partners had expressed frustration to the NBA about star players sitting out marquee broadcasts.

And-Ones: LeBron, Bronny, Draft, Stephenson, Cap Space

LeBron James was unhappy that son Bronny James was removed from ESPN’s 2024 draft projections and instead placed in a 2025 mock draft, according to Alex Andrejev and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. The ESPN story had the younger James going in the second round in 2025.

“Can y’all please just let the kid be a kid and enjoy college basketball,” LeBron wrote in since-deleted posts on social media, adding, “These Mock Drafts doesn’t matter one bit! I promise you! Only the WORK MATTERS!! Let’s talk REAL BASKETBALL PEOPLE!”

LeBron has often stated he wanted to stay in the league long enough to play with his son. Bronny, a freshman at USC, is averaging a modest 5.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game through 19 contests and is no longer considered a lock to be a one-and-done prospect.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Speaking of this year’s draft class, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo address a number of topics, including the potential of UConn’s Stephon Castle and Donovan Clingan, Houston’s Jamal Shead and Weber State’s Dillon Jones.
  • Lance Stephenson, 10-year NBA veteran, is currently playing for the NBA G League’s Iowa Wolves. Stephenson feels he could help an NBA team in numerous ways if given a chance to play in the league again. “Leadership. Definitely, helping young guys. Winning mentality, just that edge on the defensive end,” Stephenson told Sam Yip of Hoops Hype. “A lot of teams need help with defense, especially during the playoffs. Tough guys that can play defense and lock down and win games. I can bring any edge that a coach needs.”
  • Several teams could have major cap space this summer, with the Sixers, Pistons, Raptors and Magic well-positioned to do some major spending. Hoops Hype’s Mark Deeks breaks down what every team’s cap situation will look like when the offseason arrives.

LeBron James Reportedly Seeking Nine-Figure Deal With Lakers

LeBron James is hoping to negotiate a new contract with the Lakers this summer that will pay him “nine figures” over the next three years, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on a recent edition of First Take (video link).

“I don’t think this is LeBron’s last stand, I don’t think this is the Lakers’ last stand,” Windhorst said. “First off, I think LeBron is angling to sign a multiyear deal in the offseason with the Lakers that will be nine figures. That will be even bigger than the deal he is on now. Now, whether or not he’s able to finish that deal, whether or not the Lakers want to give him a three-year contract and pay him $60 million when he’s 42 years old, that’s a different discussion.”

James, who turned 39 in December, is earning $47.6MM this season and faces a decision on a $51.4MM player option for next year. He could come back to the Lakers for that amount, opt to test free agency or pursue a long-term deal that might keep him in L.A. through the end of his career. Windhorst believes that’s his preference if Lakers management is willing to cooperate.

James continues to perform at a remarkable level for someone his age, averaging 25.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 7.9 assists through 51 games in his 21st NBA season. He appeared in his 20th consecutive All-Star Game earlier this month.

James has said in the past that he would like to team up with his son, Bronny, who’s currently a freshman at USC, although there has been speculation that LeBron has softened that stance and would be happy if they’re both in the NBA at the same time. Regardless, the younger James’ draft status will be a story to watch this summer with his father approaching a decision on free agency.

LeBron has also expressed a desire to keep contending for championships in the latter part of his career. Although the Lakers didn’t make any significant moves at the trade deadline, they’re expected to be more aggressive about upgrading the roster this summer when general manager Rob Pelinka will have three future first-round picks to trade.

Lakers Notes: Castleton, James, Davis, Schedule

Lakers two-way center Colin Castleton has been diagnosed with a right wrist fracture, the team announced on Sunday. He will be reevaluated in approximately two weeks, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin relays (Twitter link).

Castleton, who has made seven cameo appearances in the NBA this season, signed his two-way deal in July after going undrafted out of Florida. He has spent most of the season with the G League South Bay Lakers.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • The Lakers lost to Phoenix 123-113 on Sunday after falling behind 45-27 in the first quarter. LeBron James lamented the early defensive lapses, according to Khobi Price of the Orange County Register. “Super slow start for us, offensively and defensively,” James said. “You give a team 45 points in a quarter, that’s always going to be a problem. Especially if you aren’t scoring 45 as well.”
  • Another issue for the Lakers on Sunday, Price writes, was rebounding. Suns center Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 22 rebounds, including seven at the offensive end. “He’s a big body. That’s his role on the team: go out and rebound, get them extra possessions. They did a good job with it,” Anthony Davis said.
  • Sunday’s contest began a stretch in which the Lakers face eight Western Conference contenders in a 10-game span. Coach Darvin Ham stresses the fundamentals in these showdowns, Price writes in a separate story. “We’ve got a bunch of weapons, but they’re useless if we don’t do the little things – sprinting hard when we get the ball in transition, not turning it over, maintaining spacing, making sure we get hits on screens to create an advantage and making the simple, easy play,” he said. “To put it in detail, that’s what I’m talking about.”
  • James’ gimpy ankle has held up so far since the All-Star break. He arrived late for All-Star weekend to get treatment and received more work on the ankle before the club returned to action. “It wasn’t something that we just came up with out of the blue,” James told Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times and other media members. “We had already clocked this months ago, knowing the schedule.”

Pacific Notes: Kerr, Curry, Payton, Fox, Kings, LeBron

Stephen Curry smiled at his locker on Friday night when he realized Steve Kerr‘s new two-year extension now aligns with his own contract, which expires after the 2025/26 season, per Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. Curry offered emphatic support for the deal.

There’s a handful of player-coach and trio-coach stories in league history that are comparable to ours,” Curry said. “And that’s not by accident. … He’s been such a consistent presence. Not just the X’s and O’s, but of managing the lows and the highs, mainly the highs, that we’ve been at. People think it’s easy. But with success comes expectation. The nuance of keeping things together and managing not just in here, but managing up as well, it’s hard. It just reminds you of the special personality and character you have to have to do this job.

Draymond Green, another key member of Golden State’s dynasty, was also happy to learn of Kerr’s extension, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

I think it’s incredible,” Green said. “I wouldn’t want finish my time here with any other coach. The way he’s been to this franchise, what he’s done for us as players, the winning ways that he brought here, you can’t replace that. So, very happy for Steve and his family.”

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • After missing Thursday’s contest vs. the Lakers, Warriors defensive ace Gary Payton II was back in action on Friday against Charlotte, as Slater relays (via Twitter). Payton, who finished with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 11 minutes during the victory, has been limited to 21 games thus far in 2023/24 due to calf and hamstring strains.
  • According to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee (Twitter links), Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox admitted on Tuesday that he’s been battling a right shoulder issue, but said the injury was minor and he hasn’t undergone an MRI because “it was never serious enough for me to do that.” There has been speculation that Fox might have been dealing with an ailment, as his offensive efficiency has waned a bit the past couple months after an excellent start to the 2023/24 campaign. The one-time All-Star had a strong performance in Thursday’s win over San Antonio, recording 28 points, nine assists, five rebounds and two steals while shooting 12-of-18 from the floor in 37 minutes.
  • Head coach Mike Brown has continually stressed that the Kings need to improve their defense to have a shot at postseason success, Anderson writes for The Sacramento Bee. After being ranked No. 25 in defensive rating last season, Sacramento is currently No. 19 in that category this season. However, the offense — which was ranked No. 1 in the league in 2022/23 — has slipped to No. 14. “We know we’ve got to improve the offense back closer to what it was last year,” GM Monte McNair said after the trade deadline. “If we do that, I think we can make some noise, but we’ve got some work to do because the West is tough 1 to 12 or 13 this year and every game is going to be a dogfight.” Anderson considers whether the team’s coach and top front office executive are on the same page when it comes to the balance of offense and defense.
  • As expected, Lakers superstar LeBron James returned to action on Friday vs. San Antonio after missing Thursday’s game with a left ankle injury that has been bothering him for some time. He was upgraded from questionable to probable before suiting up for the contest, tweets ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. The 39-year-old finished with 30 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in 34 minutes.

Warriors Notes: Kuminga, Thompson, Jackson-Davis, Quinones

In an in-depth story for ESPN.com, Baxter Holmes looks back at the Warriors‘ efforts to keep their dynasty window open for the past several years, exploring the team’s hits and misses during that time and revisiting the oft-discussed “two timeline” plan.

As Holmes details, Golden State’s philosophy in the draft appeared to shift during those years. The Warriors took home-run swings in 2020 and 2021, drafting relatively raw talents like James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody in the hopes that those prospects would develop into the kinds of stars who could help the team continue to contend for championships after Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green exited their primes.

However, that approach had changed by 2023, when the Warriors drafted Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis, two more seasoned college players who were better positioned to complement the current core and contribute right away.

“You can’t hit on everybody,” Warriors owner Joe Lacob said. “We’ve got Kuminga, who’s exploding, and a bunch of other young guys who, I don’t know if they’re going to be stars, but they’re pretty good. “I think we should be able to avoid that total rebuild.”

Here’s more on the Warriors:

  • Kuminga’s breakout couldn’t have come at a better time for the Warriors, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who hears from sources that the team considered trade scenarios involving Pascal Siakam and Dejounte Murray earlier this season. Golden State ended up not making any major in-season deals, but appears to have found its newest impact player internally, with Kuminga averaging 21.1 points per game on .571/.432/.769 shooting over his past 17 games.
  • The Lakers and Warriors currently rank ninth and 10th in the Western Conference and haven’t played much better than .500 basketball since their most recent championships, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. While the two Pacific rivals still have title aspirations this season, Windhorst interprets Golden State’s pre-deadline inquiry about a LeBron James trade as a signal that the Warriors aren’t confident they have enough for another championship run — and as a sign they suspect LeBron may have the same apprehensions about the Lakers’ title potential.
  • Anthony Slater of The Athletic explores how the growing chemistry between Thompson and Jackson-Davis in the second unit helped fuel a victory over the Lakers on Thursday. Thompson went just 1-of-9 from the field in his second game off the bench, but he had five assists, including four on baskets by Jackson-Davis.
  • Lester Quinones‘ new deal with the Warriors is simply a rest-of-season, minimum-salary contract, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Unlike most other teams that have been promoting two-way players to their standard rosters, Golden State wasn’t in position to offer Quinones multiple years or a salary above the minimum due to its cap situation. Quinones will be eligible for restricted free agency this offseason.

Lakers’ Wood To Be Reevaluated In Two Weeks; LeBron To Miss Thursday’s Game

9:34pm: The Lakers are optimistic that Wood’s injury is relatively minor and that he won’t miss more than a couple weeks, a source tells Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link).

7:15pm: Lakers backup big man Christian Wood has been diagnosed with swelling in his left knee and will be reevaluated in about two weeks, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

Wood has appeared in 50 of the team’s first 56 games and was able to play 16 minutes last Wednesday in L.A.’s final game before the All-Star break. He’s averaging 6.9 points and 5.1 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per night in his first season with the Lakers.

The team is listing LeBron James as out for Thursday’s game with Golden State due to the peroneal tendinopathy in his left ankle that has been affecting him for a while. He also missed last Wednesday’s contest and sat out the second half of Sunday’s All-Star Game.

James has been receiving treatment on the ankle this week, but it hasn’t responded well enough for him to take the court. Thursday will mark the eighth game he has missed this season, and it comes at a crucial time as the Warriors are just a game-and-a-half behind L.A. in the Western Conference play-in race.

Pacific Notes: Podziemski, Green, Kuminga, Rivers, Harden

First-round pick Brandin Podziemski has been a revelation for the Warriors, quickly becoming an integral part of the team. The Athletic’s Anthony Slater details how Golden State’s front office became enamored with him and how quickly he earned a spot in the rotation.

However, the Warriors guard feels he has a much higher ceiling.

“I want to be an All-Star,” Podziemski said. “You know, (Jonathan Kuminga) has taken that next step of really being in that conversation. To see his growth just this year has been pretty special. So going into the summer after this year elevating my game to another level, doing the things that I’m deficient in now and making them as efficient as possible, I think I can get there.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • While Draymond Green contacted super-agent Rich Paul in an unsuccessful effort to get LeBron James to consider a trade from the Lakers to Golden State, Green told Warriors owner Joe Lacob to hold onto the team’s blossoming young forward in any trade discussions. “The one thing the NBA does not want to see, is Anthony Davis and Kuminga together for the next 10 years. That would be scary!” he said in an NBA on TNT interview (Twitter link).
  • Former Sixers coach Doc Rivers was consulted by the Clippers before they acquired James Harden from Philadelphia, he told Tomer Azarly of Clutch Points. Rivers has since taken over the Bucks’ head coaching job. “I was the one, obviously, they consulted,” Rivers said. “They made calls and I was one of the guys who said it would be a great deal for them because I thought he fit them better than he would fit the Sixers team. I think he’s a perfect fit there. It’s a league. We talk. They just talked, asked questions, and I was on board early.”
  • Speaking of Harden, Mark Medina of Sportsnaut.com describes how the Clippers guard has made changes to his game to fit in with his current teammates. That includes his mindset on the offensive end. “My job for this team is to touch the paint and get the shot, make the shot and make the game a lot easier for teammates,” Harden said. “Whether I have my step-back going or getting to the paint, I’m going to make a play for a teammate.”