LeBron James made one thing very apparent during All-Star Weekend in Cleveland — he is not happy with his current situation with the Los Angeles Lakers and is going on the offensive.
James has taken subtle jabs on social media and in the media at the Lakers, while also igniting the storyline that he’s not closing the door on returning to Cleveland. Veteran NBA insider Brian Windhorst of ESPN pointed out after the All-Star Game that the well-coordinated moves from James are with one goal in mind.
“What James is doing is likely aimed at one primary goal: Force the Lakers into major action this summer,” Windhorst wrote. “He tried to do it nicely and now he’s doing it harshly.”
James is under contract with the Lakers until after the 2022-23 season, so he can’t just bolt. However, things could come to a head this summer. As Windhorst points out, LA will have another first-round pick to play with on the trade market and will have to choose between James or mortgaging their future for another run at a title with LeBron at the helm.
“James has never cared about draft picks, present or future,” Windhorst wrote. “He’s had occasional interest in developing young teammates, adopting a few over the years. But he’s never had a problem saying goodbye if shipping them out moves him closer to a gold trophy faster.”
Klutch Sports Not Happy With Lakers
The Lakers standing pat at the trade deadline irked James because the Lakers are 27-31 and fighting just to get into the postseason. Instead, the Lakers held onto their 2027 first-round pick — the only one they have available to trade — choosing to roll with their current roster.
James has lauded Rams general manager Les Snead for dealing draft picks to land stars and called Thunder GM Sam Presti the “MVP” for his ability to spot talent. Those were intentional shots that the Lakers’ brass heard loud and clear.
The tension with the Lakers goes beyond James. His agency, Klutch — run by his pal Rich Paul — is not happy with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka for failing to move Russell Westbrook and the first-round pick for John Wall — a Klutch client. Per Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:
According to multiple NBA sources, Klutch is not happy with (Rob) Pelinka. The sentiment has long percolated, but it reached a boil when Pelinka refused to trade Westbrook and a future first-round pick (likely 2027) for Houston Rockets guard and Klutch client John Wall.
The move didn’t make sense for the Lakers from a basketball standpoint as a significant upgrade over Westbrook, even though Wall averaged 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game last year. Wall hasn’t played this season, with the Rockets focusing on developing younger players. From the Klutch point of view, the Lakers would get their client out of a bad situation in Houston and undo the Westbrook mistake.
LeBron James Logs Big Minutes in All-Star Game
Another interesting element for James going forward is his health, which hasn’t been the best over the past calendar year. Less than a week ago James mentioned his troublesome knee would not be 100% this season, but then he opted to play a game-high 36 minutes during the All-Star contest on Sunday.
Windhorst teased that the knee could be used as an ejection button for James if things go further south for the Lakers.
“The knee surely is an issue, but James was also laying the groundwork to give himself options depending on how the rest of the season plays out for the Lakers,” Windhorst said.
James hit the game-winner in the All-Star game, finishing with 24 points, eight assists and six rebounds.