Fair or not, at the height of the Anthony Davis trade rumors swirling around the Los Angeles Lakers, the public perception was that LeBron James had gone full “LeGM” and was trying to trade his teammates.
Given the fact that players of James’ stature always wield influence over their organization, and that he shares an agent — who also happens to be his childhood friend — with Davis (an agent who was very clearly trying to get Davis to join James on the Lakers, no less), and that perception might have some basis in reality.
But whether it’s true or not, James isn’t going to publicly lament that the Lakers couldn’t get a deal for Davis done by the trade deadline. After the team’s 111-106 win over the Houston Rockets to begin their 25-game chase for a playoff spot, James said in his walk-off interview on TNT that he’s excited that the rumors are over, and that his team can get going in their quest for the postseason:
“We’ve got a fresh start for us, and that’s the second half of the season. The trade deadline is over with, this is our squad. I’m happy with who we got. I love our squad, and I’m looking forward to seeing us battle the rest of this season.”
The “this is our squad” part of that hardly sounds the most enthusiastic — and maybe even a little resigned — but the rest of that quote is pretty complimentary!
Those also weren’t the only kind words James would dish out on Thursday night, as he also praised Brandon Ingram as “very special” when speaking with reporters following the game.
But are James’ words genuine? Or could this be an attempt to smooth things over with a locker room that knows that James (or at the very least the person representing him) sees them as expendable? Was this an effort to raise the perception of the young Lakers, and their value in any deal for Davis?
It’s impossible to say for sure which of the above theories is true, or if any of them are, but it’s also worth noting that none of those options aren’t mutually exclusive.
Davis is an incredibly special player, one of the best 5-10 in the league. Even the young Lakers would surely have to understand that anyone would trade any one of them for a player of Davis’ caliber. However, it’s probably a little different when that “anyone” is your teammate and a player you looked up to growing up.
Still, James considering the young Lakers expendable for Davis (if he indeed does, or did) also isn’t some indictment of their talent. James may be genuinely thrilled to make a playoff chase with this roster he has so much “love” for. Wanting to play with one of the best players in the world instead doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t think the young Lakers are promising, or that he doesn’t want to play with them. It just means that it seems he (somewhat understandably, especially considering his age) was happy to upgrade his supporting cast with another superstar.
The Lakers will have to get past that sentiment if they want to come together and make the playoffs, and their victory over the Rockets may be the first evidence that said process has already started, and James extending the olive branch through the media might take things a bit further.
Reconciliation or not, the Lakers front office is unlikely to change its collective mind about pursuing Davis or other stars this summer, but for now, these comments are still a step in the right direction towards salvaging a season that as recently as a week ago seemed to be on the ropes.
We’ll see if it works over the next 24 games.