Over the All-Star break, rumors began spreading like wildfire after seemingly back-handed comments were made by LeBron James about the Los Angeles Lakers’ inactivity at the trade deadline. Reportedly, James and Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul were pushing for L.A. to swap Russell Westbrook for John Wall, even if it meant parting with a future first-round pick.
When the Lakers refused because of the draft pick, Paul and James reportedly took that as a lack of commitment to him and a waving of the white flag on the 2021-22 season. Of course, very little of this is substantiated, and James even went on record Friday night to dispute it.
Paul did the same and had a rumored meeting with Jeanie Buss and Rob Pelinka to clear the air on their relationship with the Lakers. Within that meeting, Paul stated that there are no hard feelings between James and L.A., according to Sam Amick of The Athletic:
“I just don’t think (communicating indirectly) is the right way of doing business,” Paul, who also represents the Lakers’ Anthony Davis, told The Athletic. “And I don’t think that’s who we are, who LeBron is. We have a great partnership with the Lakers. The Klutch Sports Group and the Lakers don’t have an issue. Rich Paul and Rob Pelinka don’t have an issue. LeBron James and Rob Pelinka don’t have an issue. And Jeanie Buss and LeBron and Rich Paul don’t have an issue. It’s very simple. Very simple. So, you know, whoever put that type of stuff out, and people run with it, I think it’s unfair to the Lakers.”
When conflicting rumors surface the way things have in the past week, it can be very difficult to tell what’s real and what isn’t. And what adds to the frustration is all of this happening while the regular season is still ongoing.
James and the Lakers having to respond to rumors of dysfunction in between games is a very bad look. Hopefully, the two sides can truly get on the same page before things get even uglier prior to a crucial offseason.
Then, James can decide if he wants to sign an extension or head into the final year of his contract with the Lakers without assurances of returning.
James emphasizes that ‘I don’t push the buttons’
Even though James expressed support for the Lakers front office, he also made sure to emphasize that he isn’t the one making the final decisions despite giving input.
“Well, first of all, I don’t push the buttons,” James stated. “They ask for my opinion, and I voice my opinion and what I believe. But I don’t press any buttons. That’s what our front office is for, that’s what our leadership group is for. I don’t press no buttons. So we can state that right now.”
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