Forget the tweets, the fake trades cooked up online or the real conversations behind the scenes that ultimately lead to nothing.
The Lakers must move forward, and Monday in the wake of a failed Kyrie Irving pursuit, they did just that.
The extent of the fallout of that pursuit, though, is still being fully sorted through.
One day after tweeting, “Maybe It’s Me,” LeBron James spoke with ESPN before Lakers practice and said he was “disappointed” that the Lakers lost out on Irving. Still, he was refocused on the Lakers’ current team.
“My focus has shifted back to where it should be and that’s this club and what we have in the locker room. …That’s a quick pivot. It don’t take me long,” James told ESPN‘s Michael Wilbon. “I don’t get too excited about the possibilities of things that can be. I kinda envision myself on what it can, but I don’t invest all the way in until I know it’s happening. And when it does not happen, I’m back, locked into the job at hand.
“We had an opportunity,” James said of acquiring Irving. “Our names were out there, the Lakers’ name was out there. We had an opportunity, didn’t happen and we move on and we finish the season strong.”
All of this comes with James just 36 points from becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, which led to a media press room at Lakers’ practice Monday.
James didn’t practice — given the day off for rest — and per league rules, he wasn’t required to speak to the media.
Russell Westbrook, who was a part of the Lakers’ trade offers for Irving, declined to speak after Monday’s practice, though his friends and his brother, Ray, shared their disappointment with the situation.
“When has any of these antics from the last week been respectable or acceptable from a teammate? I’m very curious,” Ray Westbrook reposted on Instagram.
The post was originally shared by Russell Westbrook’s longtime friend and business partner Donnell Beverly.
Coach Darvin Ham said Westbrook showed no signs of anger or disappointment at practice, saying that he’s remained locked in despite the ongoing rumors.
“He’s showing up, doing his job, being a professional. And that’s all you can do for any of us,” Ham said. “This is an unforgiving business in terms of different coverage. In terms of covering scenarios. Dealing with rumors.
Different things happening. All you can do is put your head down and do your work and try to remain as professional as possible and he’s done that.”
In addition to the trade rumors, Westbrook hardly played in the fourth in the team’s loss to New Orleans — a decision that was met with some disagreement from players inside the Lakers’ locker room.
“We go with whoever we feel is a good combination of guys to finish with,” Ham said. “He’s been out there in a ton of games, finishing games for us. And sometimes he hasn’t. It’s just a matter of a rhythm. It’s not anything personal against Russ or anything like that. It’s just myself and my staff, we survey the game the first three quarters, three-and-a-half quarters and we make a decision and we stand by it. And there’s been times — plenty of times — where he’s been involved in the end of games, overtime. And there’s been times where he hasn’t.”
Westbrook remains in trade conversations, according to people with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly, with the team attempting to find a trade or trades that can help it climb from 13th place to the middle of the playoff race, where the team feels, if healthy, it would have a chance to contend. Guards Patrick Beverley and Lonnie Walker IV are also candidates for trades if the team needs to send out lesser money than Westbrook’s $47-million contract.
Toronto guards Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., Atlanta guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, Detroit forward Bojan Bogdanovic (who the Pistons have said repeatedly isn’t available unless they’re blown away by an offer), Charlotte guard Terry Rozier and Utah guard Mike Conley are all viewed as possibilities depending on how the market shakes out between now and Thursday’s trade deadline.
Other names could emerge by the deadline as well.
People with knowledge of the situation said talks with the Nets for Irving were serious — team management and ownership aligned in a pursuit — but asking costs to compete with Dallas’ ultimate trade package weren’t practical. One scenario, they said, would’ve required the Lakers to include two unprotected first-round picks, guard Austin Reaves (who is probable to return from injury Tuesday), guard Max Christie and forward Rui Hachimura to acquire Irving. A more realistic package of both young players and both picks could’ve possibly been enough for the Nets, though the Lakers still viewed that as a steep cost — especially with no assurances that Irving would accept either a two-year extension or less-than-max contract over four years this offseason.
With Dallas finalizing a trade for guard Spencer Dinwiddie and forward Dorian Finney-Smith, the Nets’ desire for a more balanced combination of win-now players and draft compensation might’ve still won out over anything the Lakers offered.
Asked specifically about James’ open disappointment and Dallas’ acquisition of Irving, Ham decided to focus solely on his team.
“I only deal with Lakers business. I don’t talk about what’s going on with other teams,” he said. “Everybody is trying to do what we’re trying to do and that’s trying to make their team the best they can be. I don’t pay attention to that. I have too much to worry about with this job and trying to make sure we’re the best version of ourselves day in and day out.”
With history a possibility Tuesday, the Lakers will need to focus solely on Oklahoma City and let whatever happens next simply happen.
“All his teammates, everyone within the organization, man, we’re all pulling for him,” Ham said of James’ pursuit of becoming the all-time scoring leader. “Again, it’s just a testament to his longevity and the way he’s been able to keep himself physically in shape at an elite level. The way he’s continued to add to his game, it’s been a wonderful thing to witness from afar and now to see it up close, it’s been really, really special. But again, his focus, he hasn’t been caught up into that. He’s aware of it, obviously.
“But he hasn’t been caught up in that. His biggest thing is to win games.”
Staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.