CLEVELAND — LeBron James used a question about Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Josh Giddey as an opportunity to heap praise on Thunder executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti at a news conference Saturday following his team’s practice for the NBA All-Star Game.
« The MVP over there is Sam Presti. He’s the MVP, » James said of the 44-year-old front-office executive who has held the post since 2007. « I mean, Josh Giddey is great. But Sam Presti, I don ‘t understand this guy’s eye for talent. [Kevin Durant]Russian [Westbrook], Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson, Josh Giddey and the list goes on and on and on. This guy is pretty damn good. »
The comment about the rival executive came just days after James took to Twitter to share his appreciation for Los Angeles Rams GM Les Snead and the T-shirt he wore to the Rams’ Super Bowl parade with « F— them picks » printed on it.
LEGEND! My type of guy!! https://t.co/QaHTlBAbJn
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 17, 2022
James wrote that Snead’s irreverent reference to his credo in building the Rams into a champion made him « my kind of guy. » Snead traded away two first-round picks apiece in order to acquire quarterback Matthew Stafford and cornerback Jalen Ramsey and parted with other picks in deals for Von Miller, Marcus Peters and more.
The timing of James’ musings about other front-office architects in the professional sports landscape is notable.
It was just a week and a half ago that the Los Angeles Lakers, losers of six out of eight games at the time, let the trade deadline come and go without making any deals.
A couple of hours after the deadline passed, Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka said he consulted with the Lakers’ captains, James and Anthony Davis, and the trio were on the same page when it came to LA’s inaction.
« Throughout this process we had different things we looked at and, like I’ve done in the past, had conversations with LeBron and Anthony about it and I would say there’s alignment here, » Pelinka told reporters on a videoconference call. « And that’s all that matters. »
A source familiar with the situation told ESPN that there was no prior sign-off from James and Davis accepting a quiet deadline. In fact, in the days leading up to the deadline, sources told ESPN there was a realization within the Lakers locker room that the roster was not working and changes would be necessary to turn the team into a contender.
Whatever disconnect may exist between James and the Lakers’ decision-makers would be a moot point until the offseason.
At the break, LA is 27-31, No. 9 in the Western Conference. The Lakers would need to win two play-in games to qualify for the postseason if the season ended today.
« Every season has its own mental and physical challenges, » James said. « And this is no different. This is the most strange season I’ve been a part of so far. »
James’ play has stood out. The 19-year veteran is averaging 29.1 points per game, third-most in the league, and has scored 25 points or more in 23 straight games — a personal best for his career.
« Obviously it starts and ends with me and we go from there, » James said.
James was asked, considering his strong play, about the Lakers’ prospects of making noise in the playoffs if they qualify.
« That’s part of the motivation at this point, » he said. « I know it’s been a hell-storm of a season for us so far but if I can get our group in the [postseason] games, all we can ask for is a chance. »