LOS ANGELES — LeBron James defended his comments about wanting to play with New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, rattling off the names of several other stars he would love to team with and rejecting the notion that he did anything wrong.
Speaking with reporters Friday after the Los Angeles Lakers‘ 112-104 win over New Orleans, James was asked if he erred when he told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin this week that it would be “amazing” to play with Davis some day. Told that some felt it was wrong for James to talk about another player under contract, James replied, “So?”
“What’d I do?” James said. “What did I do? Was it right or wrong?”
Then he proceeded to name other great players he’d like to play with.
“Ask me if I’d like to play with Jimmy Butler,” James said. “Say it right now. Ask me about Kyrie Irving, Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. Ask me about [Joel] Embiid, Ben Simmons. Go ahead, all of them. Luka Doncic. Ask me right now.
“Come on, guys, this is not rocket science. These are great players. Absolutely. I would love to play with a lot of great players. That is just who I am. People get caught up in bunches sometimes when they wish they could control what you say, and they can’t control me, at all.
“And I play by the rules.”
James added that he was not surprised by how much attention his comments about Davis generated.
“Of course not, no,” James said. “Anything I say will generate something.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that several small-market general managers privately expressed outrage over what they believe is the NBA’s unwillingness to enforce the league’s tampering rules in light of James’ remarks about Davis, who is also represented by James’ agent, Rich Paul.
An NBA spokesman told ESPN on Friday that James did not commit tampering.
“Each case is assessed on its own facts,” the spokesman told Wojnarowski. “In general, absent evidence of team coordination or other aggravating factors, it is not tampering when a player makes a comment about his interest in playing with another team’s player.”
New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry told reporters in Los Angeles that the franchise will not trade Davis, who is under contract through the 2019-20 season.
“No, we’re not trading him,” Gentry said. “We’re not trading him under any circumstance. You can move on from that one.”
The NBA has fined the Lakers $500,000 (Paul George) and $50,000 (Antetokounmpo) for organizational tampering over the past two years, but has resisted punishing players.