Every member of the Los Angeles Lakers other than LeBron James, Tyson Chandler and JaVale McGee had to deal with about ten straight days of trade rumors that they might get sent to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis last week.
Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson has already said that he expects the players involved to be professionals, and that they shouldn’t be “babied.”
Johnson also isn’t the only one offering the roster — especially young players who have never seen their names in such rumors before — advice on how to deal with them. James also had some strategies for tuning out trade rumors to share with his young teammates, advice he revealed while speaking with the media after the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics:
LeBron on what he told his young teammates about dealing with trade rumors: “I told them to stay off social media.”— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) February 8, 2019
That is not bad advice! Both just in general, since social media is a miserable hellscape that is slowly destroying our society and rotting our brains, but also because logging off is a good way to avoid trade rumors.
However, it’s also hard to ignore that James and Johnson themselves have never had to deal with trade rumors about them. That’s not to say they can’t empathize or advise, because both have talked extensively about how hard it can be to see teammates and friends traded, and have seen their close co-workers go through such rumors and deals, but it also means they’ve never worn those specific shoes.
Again, that doesn’t invalidate what James and Johnson have told the young Lakers, it just makes it less difficult for it to be tuned out if the players they’re offering the advice to simply think “easy for you to say.”
There is also the matter of that Johnson and James were both, on some level, the ones creating these trade rumors. It’s hard to apportion how much of the blame for those should go to LeBron because of how blurred the lines get between “his camp” and Klutch Sports, who represents both James and Davis. However, James is at the very least the one who helped kick-start this whole firestorm by telling a reporter on the record and mostly unprompted that it would be “amazing” to play with Davis.
That may be obvious — Davis is really good! — but James knew what would happen when he did it, which would seem to be backed up by the fact that James made his comments right before the Lakers played the Pelicans on national TV, and then took Davis out for dinner afterwards in a meet-up that leaked. Things don’t leak unless someone thinks it benefits them, and it would seem to be obvious who that particular leak would help.
Johnson mostly took the baton from there, offering nearly his entire roster for Davis in some of the most public trade negotiations the league has seen in quite some time. Even if Johnson seems to blame the Pelicans for making those discussions so loud, he is still the one who seemingly tried to force a negotiation the Pelicans had no interest in before becoming upset that they wouldn’t deal with him.
Look, the NBA is a business. LeBron shouldn’t be faulted for wanting to play with Davis, and Johnson shouldn’t be blamed for trying to get him on the Lakers. It is still difficult not to think they should have perhaps read the room a bit better before essentially saying “hey, you know how my actions indicate I don’t really want you here that badly? Well, just ignore that and keep playing hard.”
It’s an awkward situation the Lakers find themselves in, but it’s where they’re at. And given that the team is right in the middle of a playoff push, we’ll get to see exactly how well this roster can ignore the fact that two of its leaders just very openly tried to move them out of town, band together, and fight for a postseason berth.