LeBron James, D’Angelo Russell bluntly address Lakers trade possibilities before deadline
The 1.0 version of the 2023-24 Los Angeles Lakers completed its 52-game beta test on Monday with a 124-118 win over a shorthanded Charlotte Hornets group (things got too close for comfort late, but Los Angeles overall rolled). The next time the Lakers lace it up, on Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets, the 2024 NBA Trade Deadline will be history.
We know what franchise will employ LeBron James by then, as his agent, Rich Paul, made clear on Friday. As usual, though, LeBron is playing an active, if passive-aggressive, role in the pre-deadline scuttlebutt, via towels, subtweets, and threats of free agency.
Following the win in Charlotte — which capped off a roller-coaster 4-2 road trip for the 27-25 Lakers — LeBron (40 minutes, 26 points, seven assists) was asked about the possibility of transactions.
“This is who we have, so there’s nothing else to talk about,” he replied to a question about whether the Lakers have proven enough to be aggressive buyers at the deadline.
The Lakers, currently sitting ninth in the Western Conference, have one tradable first-round pick (2029 or 2030), but they’ll be able to attach two additional first-rounders to a trade package this summer — should Rob Pelinka punt on title-chasing in LeBron’s 21st campaign.
To a follow-up on whether the Lakers need to make changes to contend, LeBron distanced himself from the front office.
“It’s not a question for me,” he said. “I love who we have in the locker room. And that’s all I worry about. … I don’t get caught up in that. We’re gonna go out and prepare ourselves every single night no matter what it is. No matter who’s out on this team. No matter what. So it’s my job and it’s AD’s job, as the two captains, to make sure we keep the main thing the main thing. The main focus is now: Thursday’s game at home. And look forward to that matchup.”
On Saturday, when asked a different version of the same question, LeBron simply lamented Jarred Vanderbilt’s injury.
“Well, honestly we took a big hit with Vando last game. Our team has always been constructed around how healthy we can be and how much chemistry we can put on the floor. So, obviously, that’s a big-time blow for us.”
The Lakers’ most-talked-about trade chip, D’Angelo Russell, led all scorers with 28 points in Charlotte in what could be his final appearance for the Lakers. Russell said he isn’t phased by the buzz, and his recent form backs that up. Russell entered Monday averaging 23.7 points and 6.6 assists on 47.1% 3-point shooting since Jan 13.
“I don’t care, at all. Show up, to work. That’s it,” he said about the looming deadline.
Russell voluntarily waived his implied no-trade clause for 2023-24 — a new CBA feature applicable to certain contracts — when he signed a two-year, $36 million deal that includes a player option for next season. He reiterated what he explained to ClutchPoints at Lakers media day.