LeBron James’ Camp Refutes Report of Rift With Lakers

LeBron James

Getty images LeBron James and Stephen Curry during the All-Star game.

The reported rift between Klutch Sports and the Los Angeles Lakers has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, Rich Paul, CEO and founder of Klutch, went as far as to call it an “absolute lie.”

It was reported by Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report that Klutch — which represents LeBron James — was not happy with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka for failing to make a move at the trade deadline despite LA falling below .500. The issue centered around Pelinka turning down a deal with the Rockets that would have sent Russell Westbrook and a first-round pick to Houston for John Wall — a Klutch client.

Paul spoke to Stephen A. Smith, who let Paul’s point of view be known on ESPN’s First Take on Monday (h/t Silver Screen and Roll for the transcription).

“Rich Paul called me yesterday and asked me to quote him on this story about him, and Klutch Sports, and essentially them wanting the Lakers to trade Russell Westbrook and a first-round pick to Houston for John Wall. He wanted me to state emphatically that there was absolutely, positively no truth to that whatsoever. He never did that. He did not do that. The people who wrote the story never contacted him to get any kind of perspective from him on that,” Smith said on Monday’s edition of the show.

“It is an absolute lie, and he said ‘could you please do me a favor and quote me and tell the world that I specifically said that’s a damn lie. There is no truth. It never happened.’ Just for what it’s worth, that’s what Rich Paul says about these stories that have been put out there. Fair enough. So I quoted him.”

LeBron James Forcing Lakers’ Hand


The report comes after an interesting All-Star weekend for the Lakers, where the team’s James took some very public — albeit veiled — shots at the franchise.

James 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. He also left the door open for a return to Cleveland, something he had never addressed previously, and said he’ll finish his career playing alongside his son, Bronny, regardless of what team he ends up on.

It all goes back to the failure to improve the roster at the deadline, although the Lakers had very limited resources — a single first-round pick and undesirable talent — to get something done.

Pelinka said after the deadline that he, James and co-star Anthony Davis were on the same page with standing pat, although that was dubbed “totally false” by a source close to James. Per Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“Rob Pelinka also said that ultimately there was alignment between him, LeBron James, and Anthony Davis to not make a move. Now, things get interesting here, as I am told from a source familiar with LeBron and Anthony’s thinking, that that is ‘totally false,’ that there was no conversation between Rob Pelinka, LeBron, and Anthony Davis on Thursday. There was no go ahead of an ‘okay’ to have inaction at the deadline.”

James Trying to Force Lakers’ Hand This Offseason

James is under contract with LA until after the 2022-23 season, so the Lakers don’t have to worry about him skipping town — yet. Things could come to a head this summer when the Lakers will have another first-round pick to play with and ultimatley have to choose between James or mortgaging their future for another run at a title. Per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst:

“What James is doing is likely aimed at one primary goal: Force the Lakers into major action this summer,” Windhorst wrote on Sunday after the All-Star festivities. “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.”

The Lakers may be able to make some moves, but much of their situation is predicated on the health of the roster. James and Davis have both been injured for extended periods of time this season, making it near impossible for LA’s new “big three” to build consistent chemistry.

Perhaps the Lakers can get a few more pieces to bolster the rotation but three members of the NBA 75th anniversary team should be enough to get the Lakers into the postseason. At this point, even that is a toss-up for the Lakers.

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