Ever since March, there have been whispers that the Los Angeles Lakers trading LeBron James might be more of a possibility than most would think. Then, Stephen A. Smith of ESPN threw kerosene on those embers when he went on TV and said there were “folks close to (Lakers owner) Jeanie Buss imploring her to trade LeBron James.”
We’ll touch on the source of those rumors in a minute, but it’s worth noting that both Smith himself, and former Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson both shot down Smith’s own report during Johnson’s wild appearance on ESPN’s “First Take” on Monday morning:
Smith: I know the Lakers are not going to trade LeBron James.
Johnson: No. It’s not even talked about.
Unless Johnson is lying, that would seem to confirm that at least until Johnson quit his job, the Lakers had not internally talked about trading James. And given how close Johnson is to Buss (or maybe was, after his TV appearance on Monday morning), it would seem possible that he would be able to say with confidence that the Lakers hadn’t talked about such a trade since he left, either.
But as for the rumors that people are telling Jeanie to trade James, Johnson said he has heard those reports:
“Oh yeah I’ve heard some people say that, but I just started laughing, and I’m sure Jeanie did too. Again, I love what LeBron means to the Lakers and our fanbase, and I think that again, he’s gonna be the No. 1 recruiter this summer.”
And if a recent report is true, those rumors were worth laughing at, because as Ryen Russillo of ESPN outlined on a recent podcast, the sourcing of Smith’s initial report was a little... sketchy (h/t @pickuphoop, emphasis mine):
“When I was on “Get Up” with (Mike Greenberg) and Seth Greenberg, and that was a really weird deal, because Stephen A. (Smith) came out and said that people close to Jeanie Buss are saying she should trade LeBron, and we found out it was people from her spin class. And then that became a thing, and people built graphics and then Stephen A. came on and like shot down his own thing. He was like ‘it’s not that big of a deal.’ Okay, well we just spent 24 hours on this.”
Thankfully, this site didn’t spend any time on that particular report because of the voice it was coming from, and used common sense to voice considerable skepticism about the source of the March report. But still, this would seem to indicate that unless the Lakers’ already voluminous decision-making group has expanded to include members of Buss’ spin class, then that was probably not a rumor worth running with.
And, as Johnson outlined earlier in his TV appearance, beyond just even a modicum of critical thinking telling us that the Lakers weren’t going to just ship out the first star to join up with them since Kobe Bryant and further tarnish their image with players around the league, as well as that James’ talent would make it hard to get equal value back in a trade, there are even more reasons that the team wouldn’t trade James:
Johnson: That’s not gon’ happen. That’s not gon’ happen. Listen Molly, thank you for bringing it up. This guy is special. He has helped our young players so much. He’s made Kyle Kuzma better. He’s made Brandon Ingram better. The way he approaches the games and practices, every player now is like ‘wow, I’ve got to get better.’ And I’ll tell you who he really took aside: Lonzo Ball.
Max Kellerman: Game recognize game.
Johnson: There you go right there. And Max, he has been a great influence on Lonzo. When that thing went down with the guy who was running their business, first call: LeBron James sat down with Lonzo. It’s more than just on the court. It’s how to be a professional and how to take your game to the next level. And then, last but not least, LeBron wants to be the man responsible for leading the Lakers to their next championship.
Whether or not James can get the Lakers there is still unknown, but it would seem that despite what you may have heard on Twitter or through quote graphics and talking heads, James is going to at least be given the chance to try.