Insider Sheds Light on LeBron James’ Message to Lakers: ‘Brilliant’

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The smoke around Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James and a potential trade was quickly put to bed by his agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, for this season at least.

James posted cryptic tweets and gave similar answers to contract questions and declined to clarify either. He also sported a New York Knicks towel during his walk-off interview following the Lakers’ win on February 3.

All of those things were indeed meant to send a message to the Lakers’ front office with the trade deadline just days away, according to one league insider.

“Obviously, LeBron often wears towels, okay,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on “The Hoop Collective” on February 5. “This is why it’s so brilliant. Because he has perfect deniability he can be like, ‘I just put a towel around my around my shoulders. What are you talking about? You guys are out of your mind.’

“LeBron, this is what he excels at. He computes all this stuff. Of course he was cognizant and aware that he was putting on a towel that said New York Knicks. And why would he mess with the Knicks? Because he is using, he was using the Knicks as a tool to pressure the Lakers.”

James can opt out of the second year of his two-year, $99 million contract this offseason.

LeBron James’ Shoes in Lakers Win Fuel Speculation

The idea that it could be in the best interest of both he and the Lakers to part ways only picked up steam with the team’s struggles this season.

One detail that could border on conspiracy theory, James also sported his signature shoes in the same colorway as his son, Bronny James’ USC Trojans. Some of the speculation around James’ potential exit this summer is his desire to play with his son.

He has said that he doesn’t know whether or not that is the younger James’ wish. But in an ad for Beats and narrated by wife Savannah, the dream sounds alive and well.

ESPN draft analysts Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo projected Bronny James to go undrafted in their mock draft from January 11. Perhaps that allays some of those specific concerns.

But the elder James is still looking to get a point across.

Lakers Quieter on Trade Front

The Lakers were a prominent rumored destination for several of the league’s potential trade candidates ahead of the February 8 deadline. Things have cooled down on several of those fronts as the deadline draws closer, though.

They were early to withdraw from the pursuit of Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, who is out for the season following foot surgery. Neither they nor the Atlanta Hawks are willing to acquiesce in a potential trade for Dejounte Murray. The Lakers have also backed out of their pursuit of Bruce Brown of the Toronto Raptors.

Their attention has shifted to less expensive targets, with two-way wings at the top of the list, per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha.

“The team is putting a greater emphasis on adding a defensive wing by the trade deadline, according to team sources,” Buha wrote on February 3. “The issue, of course, is that every team could use another wing. Prospective prices are high.”

It’s also possible James’ pressure has the opposite in the long run.

The Lakers’ front office could view the uncertainty around the 39-year-old superstar, James, as a reason not to overcommit to anything beyond this season.