One day after news broke that Kyrie Irving had demanded to be traded by the Brooklyn Nets, LeBron James was asked if he’s the type of player who could help the Los Angeles Lakers get to the finish line.
“That’s a Rob question,” James said, referring to general manager Rob Pelinka after the Lakers’ 131-126 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday. “You got to see him when y’all get back to LA. I’ve told y’all [for] a couple weeks, I don’t speak for our front office. My mindset is whatever lineup or whatever group that we have is to make sure we prepare ourselves the best way we can to go out and win.”
James then added one more sentence, clarifying his thinking about whether Irving would bolster the Lakers’ chances of winning a title.
“Obviously that’s a — what’s the word you use — ‘Duh’ question when you talk about a player that like that.”
James played alongside Irving on the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2014-16, They reached the NBA Finals all three years and won a championship together in 2016, storming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors to become the only team in NBA history that has dug themselves out of such a hole in the championship round.
The Lakers, LA Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns are interested in trading for Irving, according to multiple reports. On Friday, amid the Irving news, James posted a cryptic tweet that was widely interpreted as him showing interest in playing alongside his former teammate.
Pelinka said last month that the Lakers would be willing to consider all options, including parting with their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks if there’s a deal that could make them a championship-level team.
Russell Westbrook, who has been involved in multiple trade rumors the last two seasons and whose $47 million contract would surely be part of the framework for any deal that would involve Irving, was asked Saturday if he felt any additional pressure as Thursday’s trade deadline approaches.
“No, I do not,” Westbrook said Saturday. “That’s not up to me. Like I said, I’ve known this was a business since I was 18, 19 years old, since I got into it. My dad taught me that at that age, getting to this league is a business, and people make whatever decision they make. And I’ll make sure I’m ready and professional, like I always have been and always will be. “
After being listed as questionable because of a non-COVID illness heading into Saturday’s game, Westbrook went on to play, finishing with 15 points, four rebounds and four assists. He did not play the final 11 minutes, a decision Lakers coach Darvin Ham said was due to James, Anthony Davis, Patrick Beverley and Troy Brown Jr. having a good rhythm together in the first half before the Lakers blew a 12-point third quarter lead and the Pelicans snapped a 10-game losing streak.
“We find five that’s in a good rhythm together, we’ll pursue it,” Ham said. “Like I said, there’s been many times this season where Russ has been part of that group, and tonight just wasn’t the case.”
When Westbrook was asked why he wasn’t on the bench down the stretch, he clarified that he was on a workout bike trying to stay warm.
“I’m always on the bike,” Westbrook said. “… I’ve been all in since Day 1. I’ve got nothing. I’m very supportive. I’m a very supportive guy and teammate since I’ve been in this league. I compete every night, I do my job. When they ask of me, I go out and compete. I make no complaints, I do what I need to do. I’m grateful for an opportunity. If my number’s called, I’m always ready, and if not, I sit there and get warm, because I wanna make sure I have an opportunity.”
As the trade deadline looms, James, who is 36 points away from passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer, said rumors shouldn’t distract the Lakers from doing their job. With this loss, the Lakers fell to 13th in the Western Conference with a record of 25-29.
“Shouldn’t be an issue,” James said. “Happens every year. The trade deadline happens every single year. It’s a business. You go out and play, you go out and focus and no matter what happens, you’re still a professional.”
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.
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