LeBron James Makes Lakers ‘Perfect Place’ for Kevin Durant, Says Stephen A. Smith

Lakers star LeBron James (left) and Kevin Durant of the Suns

Getty Lakers star LeBron James (left) and Kevin Durant of the Suns

There is usually a lot more nuance to what gets said by ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith than what he gets credit for, and one of his latest hot NBA takes deserves some context. But speaking about the mess that the Phoenix Suns have become this season, as the trio of Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Devin Booker so clearly flamed out with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Timberwolves, Smith hit on a salient point about the Lakers and LeBron James.

They’re just was Durant needs at this stage of his career.

That’s because while Durant, at age 35, is still as effective as ever on the floor, he is also as difficult to decipher off it. That’s not to say Durant is a locker-room problem—just that he is not a locker-room solution, not the veteran star leader teams often hope he will be.

Because of that, Smith said on ESPN’s “First Take” this week, Durant ought to team up with James.

“Personality-wise, I’m just talking about his personality, I’m not talking about whether it will fit cap-wise, just his personality. I think the perfect place for him would have been the Lakers because of LeBron,” Smith said.

Durant only wants attention, generally speaking, on his own terms. James would help him achieve that. “LeBron is a magnet for the attention,” Smith noted. “Because you have that, Kevin Durant gets to play in the background. But that wasn’t enough for him in Golden State, evidently, so we don’t know.”


Kevin Durant Played Well Despite Suns Dysfunction

The Suns, at least publicly, are saying the intention in Phoenix is to run it back with its current Big Three. Phoenix fired its coach, Frank Vogel, and replaced him with Mike Budenholzer earlier this month. That, at least for now, is the extent of the changes the team will be making to its top-ticket items.

Durant held up his end of the bargain this season, with a nifty stat line of 27.1 points, 52.3% shooting, 41.3% 3-point shooting, plus 6.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists. Booker was effective, too, but Beal struggled to get on the floor this year, appearing in just 53 games this season.

There was some hope that the Suns would rally together in the playoffs but, instead, they were meekly swept out by Minnesota. And they won’t be able to make many changes to the roster because of the restrictions they face as a team that is more than $100 million—well over the so-called “second apron”—of the NBA’s increasingly restrictive luxury tax.

Trading Durant to a team that could offer win-now assets (like the Lakers) is one way the Suns can get out of their mess, but that, apparently, is not in the cards.

Lakers, LeBron James Could Corral KD

Additionally, one executive who spoke to Heavy Sports said he’s not sure how many teams could withstand Durant’s presence, given the way he has become increasingly mopey and disgruntled as his career has gone on.

The Lakers would have to be certain that LeBron James could keep Durant in line.

“He makes you nervous because as good as he is, he now has some baggage and it is easy to blame everyone else for what has happened in his last few stops, but at some point you start to say, ‘Wait, he is the common factor here,’” one Eastern Conference GM said. “There are a lot of teams that he’d be a great fit, maybe all of them, right? He is that good.”

But, the GM points out, things ended badly for Durant in Golden State in 2019. Then they ended badly last year in Brooklyn. Now, they’re going badly yet again in Phoenix.

“You have to ask, ‘How much of this baggage is his, how much is just the bad circumstances he was in?’ Because it seems like a long time since Kevin was happy as a player,” the GM wondered. “He’s disgruntled all the time. So then you have to ask, ‘If he is unhappy, can we take it, do we have the coach and the locker room to shrug that stuff off?’

“That is a question you have to ask with him now. It is not going to be ‘Yes’ for every team and that would limit his market.”




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