In LeBron James’ estimation, his mission is to carry on the work Michael Jordan began.
“When MJ came in in ’84 and started to do what he did, he made the game global,” James said. “And obviously that ’92 Barcelona run that the Dream Team had, it just solidified why he was the best athlete in the world to do as such. And then between MJ and David Stern, they turned it into what it is today and guys like Adam Silver and myself are just trying to keep it going.”
James reflected on the impact Jordan has made on his life, all the way back to when he first met the retired icon.
“It was Godly. I’ve said that over and over before, but it was like meeting God for the first time,” James said. “That’s what I felt like as a 16-year-old kid when I met MJ.”
In 2010, Jordan became the first former player to be the majority owner of an NBA team by acquiring the Charlotte Hornets.
“I would like to own a team at some point,” James said Saturday morning.
By the end of the season, James will likely pass Jordan on the all-time scoring list. Entering Saturday’s game, he was 460 points away from it and averaging 28.4 points per game.
Trevor Ariza is headed east
Despite talks with the Lakers that continued into Friday night, the Phoenix Suns agreed Saturday to trade Trevor Ariza to the Washington Wizards for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers, according to persons who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
Ariza, 33, told the Suns the Lakers were his preferred destination and the teams tried to make that happen. He played from 2007 to 2009 as a teammate of Lakers coach Luke Walton. He has family in Los Angeles and played at Westchester High before UCLA.
Ultimately, the Lakers were unwilling to part with any of their young players to create a package that could compete with what Washington sent to Phoenix.
Ariza played for the Wizards from 2012 to 2014, and sources said he appreciates the value they put on him by offering Oubre and Rivers.
After finishing his one-year deal worth $15 million, Ariza will be a free agent in the summer.
Saturday’s trade culminated the Wizards’ second try in 24 hours to acquire Ariza. On Friday night, they thought they had completed a deal that would have sent Oubre and Rivers to Memphis, which would have sent two players and a second-round pick to Phoenix. One of those players was Wayne Selden Jr.
Hornets coach James Borrego didn’t expect Mitch Kupchak to be a funny person. In fact, Kupchak has been known to make jokes that Borrego at first didn’t identify as jokes.
“I’m catching on to it,” he said, laughing.
The Hornets hired Kupchak in April to be their general manager and president of basketball operations. It was his first job after the Lakers fired him in January 2017 following 31 years with the organization, 17 as GM. Kupchak did not attend the Lakers’ game in Charlotte because he was on a scouting trip to watch North Carolina play Gonzaga.
“It’s a partnership, that’s what it is, it’s a partnership,” Borrego said. “We talk every single day. He’s in our meetings. I feel his full support every single day through wins through losses through ups through downs. He’s with us and he’s with me.”
Rajon Rondo was evaluated by a specialist in Los Angeles on Saturday morning and was cleared to resume basketball activities.
Rondo broke a bone in his right hand Nov. 14 and had surgery the next day. He he experienced some swelling in the hand last week and had to have it drained, prompting the Lakers to shut him down for a few days.
Brandon Ingram was also re-evaluated Saturday for the sprained left ankle he suffered Dec. 5. The Lakers said Ingram is now day to day, but he will not join the team during its current trip, which ends Tuesday in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli