LeBron James shared on Monday that he is disappointed the Los Angeles Lakers were unable to secure his former team-mate Kyrie Irving in a trade.
The duo of James and Irving famously became the only team to ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, conquering the record-setting 73-9 Golden State Warriors for the 2016 championship.
Their history and chemistry meant that when Irving demanded a trade from the Brooklyn Nets on Friday, James believed it was exactly the opportunity his team had been waiting for, but they were beaten to the punch by the Dallas Mavericks.
According to Shams Charania from The Athletic, the Lakers proposed a deal sending Russell Westbrook and their two remaining first-round picks – in 2027 and 2029 – to the Nets, but with championship aspirations of their own, the Nets would not budge unless promising youngsters Max Christie and Austin Reaves were both also included.
It is believed that is where the Lakers drew the line, although further reporting from Marc Stein claims Nets owner Joe Tsai was never going to send Irving to Los Angeles, because he believed that is where he was trying to force his way to.
Welcome to Dallas, @KyrieIrving!#MFFL pic.twitter.com/p70CWK3iwp— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) February 6, 2023
Speaking to ESPN's Michael Wilbon, James laid out why he felt Irving was a good fit on this Lakers team, but said he has already moved on.
"I can't sit here and say I'm not disappointed on not being able to land such a talent," he said. "Someone that I had great chemistry with, and know I got great chemistry with on the floor, that can help you win championships, in my mind, in my eyes.
"But my focus is shifted now. My focus is shifted back to where it should be and that's this club now and what we have in the locker room. It's a quick pivot. It don't take me long. I don't get too excited about the possibilities of things that can be.
"I kind of envision myself on what it can, but I don't invest it all the way into it until I know it's happening, and when it does not happen, I'm back locked in on the job at hand.
"So we had an opportunity, our names were out there, the Lakers name was out there. We had an opportunity, it didn't happen.
"We move on and we finish this season strong, try to get a bid into the postseason, where I feel if we go in healthy, we can compete with anybody."
James acknowledged that the Lakers' struggles – currently sitting 13th out of 15 Western Conference teams – have had an effect on him, but he is determined to right the ship.
"Well, I mean for me it is challenging, but I'm 10 toes down," he said. "I understand that once I show up to work, or once I show up to the job description – and that's being a leader of the ballclub every single day – there's no [question for] me on what my mindset is.
"My mindset is how we can be great today and how we can maximise today for either the next game, for the next road trip, for next film session, for the next practice, for the next bus ride, plane ride.
"I have that mentality of if we can maximise today, then it makes the next challenge that much more easy for us."
It is no secret for Westbrook that he is at the centre of these trade rumours for the Lakers as they try to ship him elsewhere, but head coach Darvin Ham said he has been nothing but professional.
"He's showing up, doing his job, being a professional – and that's all you can do for any of us," he said.
"This is an unforgiving business... dealing with rumours, different things happening. All you can do is put your head down and do your work and try to remain as professional as possible, and he's done that."
Irving – who will make his debut for the Mavericks on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers – also received a $2million bonus due to the trade kicker clause in his contract.