LeBron James: NBA All-Star Game Draft Not About Recruiting Players to Lakers – Bleacher Report

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LeBron James: NBA All-Star Game Draft Not About Recruiting Players to Lakers - Bleacher Report

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 7: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics talk during the game on February 7, 2019 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Brian Babineau/Getty Images

LeBron James raised some eyebrows with his selections in the 2019 NBA All-Star Game draft, but the Los Angeles Lakers superstar wants to make it clear that he was using the “best player available” strategy—and nothing more.

On Saturday, James quieted the notion that he was using the draft as a way to help him recruit players to Los Angeles, per SportsCenter:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

LeBron says he picked his #NBAAllStar roster based on who was best available, and then went on to list nearly everyone’s contract status … https://t.co/3XIWK0Mx8P

“Everyone kind of gets up for fantasy basketball talk,” James said, per ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin. “Guys that are restricted free agents, that are free agents, I don’t know, [guys that have] player options. That’s all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport.”

Team James consists of:

  • James
  • Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors
  • Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics
  • Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors
  • James Harden, Houston Rockets
  • Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
  • Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
  • LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs
  • Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
  • Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
  • Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers (who was acquired in a draft-day trade for Russell Westbrook)

Interestingly, five of James’ first six picks were either players who can be free agents this summer (Durant, Irving, Leonard and Thompson) or have requested a trade (Davis). Harden was the only player whose future with his current team is not in question.

Basketball Twitter took notice of the trend:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

👀 https://t.co/ApOTmabC70

Jared Dudley @JaredDudley619

Bron is no dummy!! Drafted KD, Kyrie, Kawhi , and AD!!!! All have an opportunity to play with him by this summer 🤔🤔🤔

Thomas Duffy @TJDhoops

LeBron’s first three picks (KD, Kyrie, Kawhi) are all free agents this summer.

LIGHTYEARS.

Even fellow captain Giannis Antetokounmpo brought up the topic of tampering:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Giannis accused Bron of tampering when he drafted AD 😂

(via @NBAonTNT) https://t.co/CC6GXMpq3h

James’ picks were especially intriguing after the Lakers had reportedly spent the week leading up to the Feb. 7 trade deadline trying to acquire Davis from the Pelicans. And with the team sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference at 28-27, speculation of a roster makeover persist.

Tampering in the NBA has become a hot topic in recent seasons, with New Orleans even requesting the league keep everyone in check amid Davis’ trade request. Of note, Lakers president Magic Johnson was fined $50,000 last June for comments regarding Antetokounmpo.

Tampering rules have yet to be enforced against players, though. And as James said on TNT on Thursday night, “Tampering rules does not apply on All-Star Weekend.” 

Team James will be worth watching next weekend in Charlotte, even if the reigning All-Star Game MVP didn’t draft his team with the intention of recruiting.

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