LeBron James understands how much fans love talking about players changing teams, but said Saturday morning that his All-Star team selections had no ulterior motive.
“That’s a great conversation,” James said. “Everyone kind of gets up for fantasy basketball talk. Guys that are restricted free agents, that are free agents, I don’t know, player options. That’s all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport. It’s all good and well and dandy, but for me I picked according to my draft board and I picked according to who was the best available.”
James chose first and took the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant. He also selected the Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, along with James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors.
“It just so happened that I had KD who’s a pending free agent, and Kyrie who’s a pending free agent,” James said. “James is under contract until 2030. Kawhi’s a free agent.”
James was reminded that Davis, who requested a trade and has been linked to the Lakers, is under contract.
“Yeah, he’s under contract,” James said. “Bradley Beal’s under contract, Karl-Anthony Towns is under contract. Klay [Thompson] is a free agent. Who else is on my team? LaMarcus [Aldridge] is under contract. Dwyane [Wade] is jobless. And I’m under contract.”
His playful dig at Wade came with a smile.
James had fun participating in the draft last week, when he and Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two captains as top All-Star vote-getters, picked their teams on television, with TNT’s in-studio crew commenting on their selections.
“It was fun,” James said, and then flashed a wide smile. “But look forward to seeing someone else do it next year.”
New Lakers welcomed
The Lakers welcomed Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala to their team in Philadelphia, and both practiced at Temple University’s McGonigle Hall. They received video playbooks so they could start getting up to speed on the Lakers’ system, and they’ll play Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
It was quite a turnaround for Muscala, who started the season with the 76ers, then was traded twice last week — first to the Clippers and then to the Lakers. He had just taken his physicals with the Clippers and was in the airport ready to meet them in Boston when his agent called to tell him he’d been traded again.
The Lakers’ trip to Philadelphia allowed him to sleep in his own apartment Friday night.
“It’s been a wild three days,” Muscala said.
The Lakers’ next game is in Atlanta, where Muscala played from 2014 to 2018.
Bullock, who was drafted by the Clippers in 2013, had been with the Detroit Pistons since 2015.
“The weather is a great change,” Bullock said. “I was in L.A. for the first two years of my career. L.A. is a great city. The Lakers is a great organization, great franchise, have a lot of great players that have played there, a lot of history. I’m just glad to be a part of it. Lakers is definitely one of my teams that I enjoyed watching when I was younger. I’m a big-time Laker fan.”
Meshing with James
James planned to reach out to Bullock and Muscala, once he understands their playing styles a little better, to make sure that his passes are hitting them exactly where they want.
“I definitely understand what he’s talking about, talking about shooter, and to be able to know where they want the ball, how they want it delivered, the right spin on it and everything,” Bullock said. “With me … it don’t matter how it really comes toward me, I should be able to get it off. But I understand what he’s saying, finding exactly what you want. He knows the feel of the game … so that will be a connection that we have and can make throughout the practices and throughout the rest of the season.”
Said James: “I’ll ask them how they best see themselves being successful with our team and how they feel more comfortable on the floor, and then I’ll pick around that. I can make adjustments throughout the game and make guys feel pretty comfortable.”
The Lakers listed James as probable for Sunday’s game. Josh Hart is questionable because of right knee tendinitis and did not practice Saturday. … Coach Luke Walton doesn’t have a wish list for filling the Lakers’ open roster spot. “If we can stay healthy — we got guys at every spot and multiple guys that can play every position,” Walton said. “So, I think we can succeed with what we have but obviously, if we can get better, I’ll take that too.”
When: 12:30 p.m. PST, Sunday
On Air: TV: 7; Radio: 710, 1330
Update: Philadelphia debuted its new look Friday in a 117-110 win over the Denver Nuggets. The 76ers have had a lot of success against Western Conference teams, with a 15-6 record. The Lakers, meanwhile, are 9-9 against Eastern Conference teams.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli