He can deny it, but LeBron James certainly sounds frustrated.
James spoke with The Athletic’s Sam Amick on Saturday night after his Lakers won 136-134 over the Sacramento Kings about the direction of the Lakers franchise as he nears the end of his career.
Though they’ve won five straight, the Lakers are once again very injured and would miss the playoffs for a second-straight year if the season ended today. James needs some help, and with the trade deadline just about a month away, the Lakers have to make some decisions. There’s been reported internal debates about whether the Lakers should move a pair of future first-round draft picks to help James win now, too.
After a brief conversation with Amick on Saturday night about how the Lakers front office is managing the roster and his involvement in that conversation, James started walking away. The first chunk of the conversation didn’t do much — James repeatedly said he was just focused on playing — but it was the end that revealed how James feels.
“Y’all know what the f**k should be happening,” James yelled back at Amick before walking away for good. “I don’t need to talk.”
James then walked back the tone of that comment later on Sunday afternoon on Twitter.
Upmost respect and calmness cause that’s the mood I’m in! Your welcome! 5 game winning streak. 😉👑
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 8, 2023
“Hey Sam, actually my patience isn’t waning. You make it sound like I’m frustrated when I’m really not,” he wrote on Twitter, in part. “I told you over and over, my job is focused on the guys in the locker room, my job isn’t the roster. That’s the reality of that conversation.”
While James is right that his job isn’t to build the Lakers’ roster, he’s absolutely going to have at least a say in what happens. He’s one of the best to ever play the game, and the Lakers have been building around him since he landed in Los Angeles before the 2018-19 season.
James has also made it clear that he doesn’t want to play meaningless basketball anymore. He wants to win now while he still can.
“I’m a winner, and I want to win and give myself a chance to win and still compete for championships,” James said last month. “That has always been my passion, that has always been my goal since I entered the league as an 18-year-old kid out of Akron, Ohio.
“And I know it takes steps to get there, but once you get there and know how to get there, playing basketball at this level just to be playing basketball is not in my DNA. It’s not in my DNA anymore.”
It’s hard to read James’ final quote to Amick and take it as anything but frustration.
There’s no doubt that James wants to win to close out his career. If the Lakers can keep doing that now, a trade in the coming weeks may not be necessary. Keeping their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks would be helpful for the long-term success of the organization after James is done, too.
But, especially considering Anthony Davis and others are injured, a move now may be the best path forward to get James and the Lakers back into the playoffs.