The Lakers have made clear their intention to add another superstar in free agency next summer. It’s why they didn’t give multiyear deals to any player but LeBron James last summer. Who that superstar will be has been the subject of much speculation.
A story in Bleacher Report quoted players discussing the subject, including Golden State’s Kevin Durant, who indicated playing with James wouldn’t be appealing for a superstar because of the way he plays and the way he is covered by the media.
“I haven’t read the article, so I can’t comment on that, but what you’re asking me, to me the question is: Why would you not want to play with LeBron?” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “He’s a winner and he’s an incredible player and he’s unselfish.”
Just because the Lakers are planning to add a superstar doesn’t mean they will get one. And if they don’t, Walton still thinks he has a team that can win a championship.
“Absolutely,” Walton said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I can already see your faces, the headline: ‘Luke says Lakers are winning championship now.’ But absolutely, this group, if we continue to grow together and go through what teams go through and our young players continue to get better at the rate they have in their short NBA careers, absolutely.”
The story in Bleacher Report sought to answer the question of why other stars haven’t seemed to want to join the Lakers with James. Paul George opted to stay in Oklahoma City rather than leave to sign with the Lakers last summer. Jimmy Butler demanded a trade from Minnesota and his reported list of preferred destinations did not include the Lakers.
Durant’s comments drew the most attention. In addition to mentioning James’ playing style, Durant discussed the atmosphere around James.
“So much hype comes from being around LeBron from other people," Durant said in the story. "He has so many fanboys in the media. Even the beat writers just fawn over him. I'm like, we're playing basketball here, and it's not even about basketball at certain points. So I get why anyone wouldn't want to be in that environment because it's toxic.”
When San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich was asked whether Durant’s comments were counterintuitive, he said, “I don’t care.”
After a pause, Popovich elaborated.
“The only thing I would say is that LeBron seems to have a positive influence whatever team he plays on,” Popovich said.
Asked to pinpoint why the Lakers had been able to go on a three-game winning streak heading into Wedneday’s game, James pointed to the defense.
“Defensively we’ve been in tune and then offensively we’ve been playing together,” James said. “I mean, besides the turnovers which we’re getting better at, which we want to get better at, that’s always a topic of conversation, a point of emphasis for us, but we’ve been defending and we’ve been playing well together.”
The Lakers were able to enter the top 10 in defensive rating after Sunday’s game against the Phoenix Suns.