At first glance, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James seems like he would be one of the easiest stars to play with in NBA history. James is a willing facilitator as well as by all accounts being a wonderful teammate, and has gotten more than his fair share of players paid.
But when digging a little deeper, it’s fair to see a few areas where it might be tough to play alongside James, even with all of those positives.
James is going to have the ball a lot, making it hard for some players to establish rhythm. He’s willing to pass, but his feeds most often lead to spot-up opportunities where everyone watching is going to blame you if you miss, which can be tough for some players. All that is without mentioning a media contingent that almost exclusively credits James for the majority of wins, and mostly talks about how he didn’t get enough help from teammates after losses.
With that context on the table, Kevin Durant’s relatively recent comments about playing with James potentially being a “toxic” environment make a bit more sense, but James still made it clear to Rachel Nichols of ESPN that he wasn’t happy when he became aware of them:
“I was a little pissed off when I first heard it, to be honest,” James said of Durant’s remarks. “I didn’t know where it stemmed from, and I was asked later on that night after our game and I didn’t want to comment because I didn’t see it, I didn’t hear [it]. ... I started ‘Uninterrupted’ for a reason, and I know how sound bites can be chopped and diced and things of that nature, so I wanted to get the whole layout of what actually happened.”
In the video of his interview, James spoke more specifically about how he didn’t like the connotation of the term “toxic,” but he also said that Durant has since reached out to try and clear the air. In a shock to no one even tangentially aware of the way Durant operates, he blamed the media for the way his comments came across:
James told Nichols that he spoke to the back-to-back NBA Finals MVP to understand the intent of his message.
”Got a phone call from KD,” James said. “He mentioned how he felt and how the story ... how he felt the story took a twist. And as a man, I can’t, I don’t hold on to things -- too long. I’m too happy in my life right now, and I don’t hold on to anything that will take away from my happiness.”
For the Lakers’ sake — given that it seems likely they’ll be pursuing Durant in free agency this summer — it’s good news that James is willing to let bygones be bygones. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Durant is bound for L.A. or anything, but James being amenable to just letting this go certainly can’t hurt the Lakers’ chances.
Durant has some points about the way the media covers James at times, but he also used some particularly negative language about it here, and it’s not surprising that James would be upset at the implication of Durant’s words.
This is one of those cases where both sides are sort of right, and it seems as though Durant and James both get that and are set to move on. Either that, or James is going to use this episode as more motivational fuel for when the Lakers take on the Warriors on Christmas Day. We’ll see which in a few hours.