EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — LeBron James was initially disappointed by the Los Angeles Lakers losing out to the Dallas Mavericks in their trade bid for Kyrie Irving, but the four-time champion said he has already put that past him and is ready to rally with whatever team L.A. has moving forward.
“I can’t sit here and say I’m not disappointed on not being able to land such a talent, but [also] someone that I had great chemistry with, and know I got great chemistry with on the floor, that can help you win championships, in my mind, in my eyes,” James told ESPN’s Michael Wilbon as part of a wide-ranging interview Monday. “But my focus is shifted now. My focus is shifted back to where it should be and that’s this club now and what we have in the locker room.”
The Lakers were one of a handful of teams to aggressively pursue Irving after the eight-time All-Star requested a trade from the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, sources told ESPN.
L.A. made an offer centered on Russell Westbrook and their two future first-round draft picks in 2027 and 2029, sources told ESPN. The Nets opted for the Mavs’ offer of Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, an unprotected first-round pick in 2029 and two second-round picks.
The Lakers were informed that the Nets believed the Dallas deal would better help the franchise stay in win-now mode with future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant leading the way. However, the Lakers also got the impression that Nets governor Joe Tsai was reluctant to trade Irving to L.A., which was believed to be Irving’s preferred destination, after a tumultuous tenure with the talented point guard, sources told ESPN.
There are still four days remaining until Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. James said he’s committed to leading the team no matter what moves are made — or not made — by then.
“It’s a quick pivot,” James said. “It don’t take me long. I don’t get too excited about the possibilities of things that can be. I kind of envision myself on what it can, but I don’t invest it all the way into it until I know it’s happening. And when it does not happen, I’m back locked in on the job at hand.
“So we had an opportunity, our names were out there, the Lakers name was out there. We had an opportunity, it didn’t happen. We move on and we finish this season strong, try to get a bid into the postseason, where I feel if we go in healthy, we can compete with anybody.”
James, who played 40 minutes in L.A.’s loss in New Orleans on Saturday, was given the day off from practice Monday by Lakers coach Darvin Ham. Westbrook practiced but declined to speak to reporters.
“He’s showing up, doing his job, being a professional. And that’s all you can do for any of us,” Ham said of Westbrook. “This is an unforgiving business … 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.”
Ham was asked if he had any response to James admitting he was disappointed that Irving was not coming to L.A.
“I only deal with Lakers business,” Ham said. “I don’t talk about what’s going on with other teams. My hat’s off to everybody that is trying to do what we’re trying to do, and that’s trying to make their team the best they can be.”
Wilbon asked James to explain his tweet, “Maybe it’s Me,” sent hours after the Mavericks landed Irving on Sunday.
Maybe It’s Me
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 6, 2023
“It’s all about accountability for me,” James said of the tweet. “I’m always challenging myself, taking accountability for myself. I think your greatest challenge and your greatest enemy is the person that you look in the mirror. So I’m always just trying to take accountability for me. You know, what can I do better? How can I be better? Is there things I can do more? Is there things I can do to be greater at to not only help the ballclub and everybody all automatically think it’s basketball, but it’s in life in general.
“So it’s always just, it’s me talking to me and to holding myself comfortable.”
James, 38, signed a two-year, $97.1 million extension with Los Angeles in the offseason that will keep him under contract through the 2024-25 season, should he pick up his option on the final year. L.A. is currently 25-29, 13th in the Western Conference but only three games out of the No. 6 seed.
James admitted the toll the Lakers’ struggles have taken on him, but promised resolve in getting the team back on track.
“Well, I mean for me it is challenging, but I’m 10 toes down so I understand that once I show up to work, or once I show up to the job description — and that’s being a leader of the ballclub every single day — there’s no [question for] me on what my mindset is,” he said. “My mindset is how we can be great today and how we can maximize today for either the next game, for the next road trip, for next film session, for the next practice, for the next bus ride, plane ride.
“Like, I have that mentality of if we can maximize today, then it makes the next challenge that much more easy for us.”
LeBron James disappointed by losing out on Kyrie Irving, but ‘focus is shifted’