He didn’t seem to have much patience for allowing such things to get in the way of the team’s performance, and made that clear when he was asked if all the talk of the Lakers’ playoff push was creating a distraction for the team (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“At this point, if you are still allowing distractions to affect the way you play, then this is the wrong franchise to be a part of, and you should just come in and say, ‘I can’t do this.’ Like, seriously, if you’re distracted by playoff pushes and all the stuff we’ve been talking about this year, then... (tails off)
“Just come and do you job; we’ll do our job at a high level, and that’s not a distraction. That’s what you want. Every game you want to feel like you’re fighting for something.”
The video doesn’t come off much better than the written word:
Lakers’ LeBron James after loss to Grizzlies (via @SpectrumSN): “If you’re still allowing distractions to affect the way you play, this is the wrong franchise to be a part of and you should just come in and be like, ‘Listen, I can’t do this.’” pic.twitter.com/s3gHiuhODx— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 26, 2019
Again, the lack of tact James and Magic Johnson have shown in taking any blame for the effect their very public desire to acquire Anthony Davis has had on the Lakers has been really disappointing. Neither James or Johnson were ever involved in trade rumors — to their own credit as players. But to act like their actions don’t have repercussions in the locker room is maddening to behold.
It’s also worth wondering who James is actually referring to here. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma accounted for 56 points on 33 total attempts between the two of them. Throughout all the trade rumors, Ingram has actually played the best basketball maybe of his career. It’s been the veterans who have fallen on their face when these distractions have been getting to the team.
JaVale McGee has barely been able to stay on the court for 20 minutes per game since the Lakers reportedly moved Ivica Zubac in part to get McGee to stop moping. The guy they landed in return for Zubac (Mike Muscala) has been either injured or awful since his arrival. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a -10 in 18 minutes and managed to get up a single shot. He’s supposed to be one of the team’s shooters.
James Worthy went in on Rajon Rondo, saying that he appeared to be going through the mentions and going so far as to say that level of play was “detrimental to the team.” Former players almost never go in on veterans like that but it was absolutely true. Credit to Worthy for calling it like it is.
Now, all we need is for Magic and LeBron to take notice for themselves, but at this point it may be too late for mea culpas or alterations of course. The Lakers are where they are, and they’re either going to get past whatever distractions or issues are ailing them, or this is going to be a very different team next year, and one whose leadership has come into question.