Lakers brush off LeBron James trade rumors and beat Utah

LeBron James wasn’t with the Lakers as they played their final game prior to the All-Star break.

In an alternate universe, maybe he’d be with the Golden State Warriors. Maybe it would be someone else?

In this one? It just meant the Lakers and James were able to steal an extra day before the break.

Early Wednesday morning before the Lakers’ 138-122 win against the Jazz, a story published by ESPN detailed attempts by the Warriors and the 76ers to trigger trade discussions with the Lakers about James ahead of the trade deadline last week.

Sources confirmed the calls, which were strongly rebuffed.

The discussions about James’ availability came with his cryptic hourglass emoji post as the backdrop and his lack of patience around the trade deadline becoming a bit of an annual tradition with the Lakers (at least for the past three years).

That rival teams even felt there was a shot at acquiring James speaks to the unease around the Lakers following losses to Houston and Atlanta. His player option this summer, plus the potential for his son, Bronny James, to enter the draft are looming factors that could create off-season drama.

Coach Darvin Ham said the Lakers’ focus remains internal.

“We said it early, we said it often, we’ve been derailed at certain segments through injuries with our consistency but at the end of the day, maybe people [did not] believe it at the trade deadline, but we believe in what we have in our locker room wholeheartedly,” Ham said.

“And we feel like what we have in our locker room believes in us and the process of us trying to turn this thing and catch some rhythm in a positive manner. And that’s what you’ve seen over the last six games. So, all of that fantasy basketball — coulda, woulda, shoulda stuff — it’s not my responsibility. My responsibility is to coach the hell out of these guys that have a Laker uniform on.”

The Lakers’ win in Boston following James’ emoji post came without him or Anthony Davis, and it shook the team out of its two-game funk at a critical moment as the team marched towards the trade deadline.

Wednesday’s win without James came at another one, the Lakers capping a seven-game since James’ post by going 6-1 and playing with immaculate vibes.

Unlike the win in Boston, the Lakers very much had Davis in Utah, with the All-Star keying a 12-0 run to put the game out of reach at the end of the third.

He scored 37 and grabbed 15 rebounds, his 12th double-double in his last 15 games.

Rui Hachimura, who has helped ignite the Lakers’ offense since moving into the starting lineup during this stretch, scored a career-best 36. Austin Reaves added 22, and D’Angelo Russell scored 11 while dishing out a career-high 17 assists to go with nine rebounds.

The Lakers are four games over .500 for the first time since Dec. 15.

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