LeBron James says he shouldn’t be asked about potential Los Angeles Lakers trade plans. Following the team’s win over the Washington Wizards on Dec. 18, James said those inquiries should be directed to general manager Rob Pelinka.
“It’s not a question for me,” James said. “I have no idea. When I’m playing, I show up, get ready, go to work and get my guys ready to win a basketball game. I play, I’m not in the front office, so I’ll see. But I’m focused on the game and us trying to win basketball games, especially when I’m on the court.”
“Go ask [GM] Steal [Pelinka] those questions.”
Few topics have generated as many headlines and TV/radio/podcast talk as the Lakers’ trade options. All the initial discussions centered on Russell Westbrook, but he has played well enough as a substitute in recent weeks that it seems unlikely that he will be moved. Whether Westbrook is included or not, any move the Lakers make for significant improvement would have to include one or both of their coveted first-round picks in 2027 and 2029.
Whether the Lakers will actually move those picks has been the million-dollar question. A preseason report by Marc Stein stated James was promised the team would use the draft assets to improve the roster, while Pelinka said during media day that the Lakers would be willing to trade them. but only for the “correct” trade.
Up to this point, however, nothing has happened. That’s largely due to the Lakers’ embarrassing 2-10 start to the season, which left them bottom of the league standings. At that time there was no point in moving the spikes. An 11-7 mark since then reignited trade talks, but before anything could get off the ground, Anthony Davis was injured and will now be out for a month with a foot injury.
Davis, who was playing the best basketball of his career before the injury, had led the Lakers at times this season; his net rating with him on the court is more than 2.7 points per 100 possessions, plummeting to less than 6.6 when he’s not out there. His upcoming absence and the fact that he has been more injury prone puts the Lakers in a tough spot. It would be one thing to trade those picks and maximize the James-AD window if they could guarantee they would be healthy. But there’s a real risk that they could trade picks, that Davis will get hurt again, and they’ll throw away both their present and his future.
Although James, who will turn 38 on December 30, says he doesn’t want to address the dilemma, he has made clear what he feels by other ways. A Bleacher Report report stated that James “doesn’t want to waste a season of his high-level playing days.” During a special episode of “The Shop” in November, James discussed Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, saying, “If you have a major franchise player like Aaron Rodgers…why wouldn’t you go around that, when you have the picks, to maximize what you can do?” That statement certainly seemed to be a reference to the Lakers.
The trade deadline isn’t until February 9, so the Lakers still have about two months if they want to go through with the avenue. But if they struggle in the interim without Davis and fall back in the West standings, it may not be worth making a deal once he returns.