LeBron James says he should not be asked about the Los Angeles Lakers' potential trade plans. Following the team's win over the Washington Wizards on Dec. 18, James said those queries should be directed to general manager Rob Pelinka.
"Not a question for me," James said. "I have no idea. When I'm playing, I show up, prepare, go to work and get my guys ready to go win a basketball game. I play the game, I'm not in the front office, so we'll see. But I'm focused on the game and us trying to win basketball games, especially when I'm out on the floor."
"Go ask [GM] Rob [Pelinka] those questions."
Few topics have generated as many headlines and television/radio/podcast conversations as the Lakers' options for a trade. The initial discussions all focused on Russell Westbrook, but he has played well enough off the bench in recent weeks that he seems unlikely to be moved. Whether Westbrook is included or not, any move the Lakers make for a significant upgrade would have to include one or both of their widely 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 from Marc Stein indicated James was promised that the team would use 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 "right" trade.
To this point, however, nothing has happened. That's in large part due to the Lakers' embarrassing 2-10 start to the season, which left them at the bottom of the league standings. At that point it did not make sense to move the picks. An 11-7 mark since then reignited the trade talks, but before anything could get off the ground Anthony Davis got hurt and now will be out for a month with a foot injury.
Davis, who was playing some of the best basketball of his career prior to the injury, had carried the Lakers at times this season; their net rating with him on the floor is plus-2.7 points per 100 possessions, and it plummets to minus-6.6 when he is not out there. His upcoming absence and the fact that he's been more prone to injury 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 the picks, have Davis get hurt again and waste both their present and future.
Though James, who'll turn 38 on Dec. 30, is saying that he doesn't want to address the dilemma, he's made it clear how he feels through other avenues. A report from Bleacher Report stated that James "does not want to waste a season of his high-level playing days." During a special episode of "The Shop," in November, James was discussing Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and said, "If you have a transcendent franchise player like Aaron Rodgers ... Why wouldn't you surround that, when you got the picks, to maximize what he can do?" That statement certainly seemed to be a reference to the Lakers.
The trade deadline is not until Feb. 9, so the Lakers still have about two months if they wanted to pursue the avenue. But if they struggle in the interim without Davis and drop back down the standings in the West, it may not be worth making a deal once he gets back.