The Los Angeles Lakers got destroyed by a rival on June 14 over the awkward dynamic between stars LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ social media team fired back at a Twitter user who made fun of their profile picture by pointing out that Westbrook and James didn’t say hello or sit next to each other during the Lakers’ Summer League game on July 8.
According to a July 9 story from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, James and Westbrook didn’t interact with each other on July 8 despite being in the same building. The Lakers are engaged in trade talks with the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers, with Los Angeles trying to trade Westbrook.
“James sat on the south baseline flanked by his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, and his longtime friend and Lakers executive administrator, Randy Mims. Meanwhile, Westbrook positioned himself beside the Lakers’ bench on the opposite sideline,” McMenamin wrote. “In between the first and second quarter, Ham and Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka walked over from their seats at half-court to greet James. Pelinka and the L.A. star shared a quick conversation, covering their mouths with their hands for discretion.
“With the Lakers engaged in trade talks with the Brooklyn Nets and the Indiana Pacers in the last week — with sources telling ESPN that both scenarios involve sending Westbrook out — the positioning of James and Westbrook was notable. Several other Lakers players in attendance — Talen Horton-Tucker, Wenyen Gabriel and Thomas Bryant — made their way to James. But James and Westbrook stayed in their respective corners, with Westbrook exiting at halftime out of one tunnel and James leaving after the third quarter out of another.”
Lakers, Pelicans Have Become Rivals Since Anthony Davis Trade
The Lakers and Pelicans have become rivals since the Anthony Davis trade. Los Angeles acquired Davis from New Orleans in the summer of 2019, sending Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and draft picks to get the talented big man.
James and Davis guided the Lakers to the 2020 championship in their first year as a duo. However, Los Angeles has struggled the past two seasons, losing in the first round of the 2021 playoffs to the Phoenix Suns and failing to reach the postseason in 2021-22.
The Lakers went 0-3 against the Pelicans last season. New Orleans made the playoffs as the eighth seed and took the top-seeded Suns to six games in the first round. Meanwhile, Los Angeles won only 33 games after having the second-best preseason odds to win the championship.
James Wants Kyrie Irving
Marc Stein of Substack reported on July 3 that James “wants to see Kyrie Irving in Lakerland more than anyone.” James and Irving played in three consecutive Finals when they were teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers and guided Cleveland to the 2016 championship over the Golden State Warriors in seven games.
“James, I’m told, wants to see Irving in Lakerland more than anyone,” Stein reported. “What other team, furthermore, has a LeBron-sized personality with the experience to cope with all the chaos that comes with adding Kyrie? James, remember, has often thrived in chaos.”
Westbrook probably knows that James wants to play with Irving. The one-time MVP may be upset at LeBron and the Lakers since his name has been in trade rumors ever since the 2021-22 season ended.
Irving would be a more suitable fit next to James and Davis than Westbrook was last season since he can shoot from the perimeter. Uncle Drew is a career 39.3% shooter from beyond the arc, while Russ is at 30.5%.
Westbrook struggled last season, finishing second in the league in turnovers and posting an effective field goal percentage of 47.6%, which was sixth-worst in the NBA.