LeBron James does not believe the Los Angeles Lakers are anywhere near a championship team right now. After — and perhaps before — his team’s blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at home on Tuesday, he acknowledged that he’s not sure if these Lakers can ever reach the level of the Bucks or Phoenix Suns this season.
Here was LeBron’s full exchange with a reporter following the Bucks’ 131-116 shellacking of the Lakers — now 26-29, ninth in the Western Conference — at Crypto.com Arena, on national television.
Reporter: I know it’s a regular seson game, but against the defending champs, does this one hit different, especially since you were looking up at them and they had a 30-point lead on you guys?
LeBron: Does it hit different in the sense of what?
Reporter: Does it tell you something deeper about your team?
LeBron: Yeah. It tells me we ain’t on their level. I mean, I probably could have told you that before the game.
Reporter: Can you reach that level?
LeBron: Where they are right now? I don’t know. Do I think we can reach the level where Milwaukee is right now … um, no. Is that what you wanted me to hear? No.
Reporter: So, you mean, ‘right now’ can you can’t do that? But can you reach that this season?
LeBron: I would hope so. But we can’t get to where they are right now. I mean, they’re the defending champions for a reason. I guarantee if you would’ve asked teams coming out of the bubble if they could get to the level that we were playing at after winning a championship, they would say the same thing.
(I included the exact transcript because I’m not one-hundred percent positive what LeBron is stating. He initially seemed to indicate that he doesn’t believe the Lakers can be a championship contender this season, before walking it back a bit.)
Regardless, the comments are particularly notable at this juncture, considering the NBA Trade Deadline is less than 48 hours away. It’s certainly fair to wonder if LeBron is putting public pressure on the Lakers’ front office to shake things up. (It’s probably worth mentioning that Russell Westbrook struggled mightily and was benched in the fourth quarter for the second straight game, then vented about his role afterward.)
LeBron James: "I want to help AD. I want to help Russ. AD wants to help Russ. And Russ wants to help us…Lately, Russ hasn’t felt like…he's helped us as much as he’d like. We haven’t done a great job helping him."
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) February 9, 2022
Either way, it’s a stark and harsh assessment by LeBron of the status of his ballclub with 27 games remaining in the regular season.