In a recent interview with Bleacher Report, Durant discussed the challenges associated with playing with James.
“It depends on what kind of player you are,” Durant told Bleacher Report, which published its story early Wednesday. “If you’re Kyle Korver, then it makes sense. Because Kyle Korver in Atlanta was the bulk of the offense, and he’s not a No. 1 option at all, not even close. So his talents benefit more from a guy who can pass and penetrate and get him open.”
The Lakers have been linked to multiple stars since signing James this past summer. But two All-Stars available on the trade market — Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler — both ended up being dealt to teams other than the Lakers.
And despite the attraction of playing in the Los Angeles market, the Lakers are not presently believed to be the preferred destination for top free agents in 2019 like Durant, Leonard and Butler.
“If you’re a younger player like a Kawhi, trying to pair him with LeBron James doesn’t really make sense,” Durant told Bleacher Report. “Kawhi enjoys having the ball in his hands, controlling the offense, dictating the tempo with his post-ups; it’s how he plays the game. A lot of young players are developing that skill. They don’t need another guy.”
Durant also cited the relentless media coverage of James as a potential factor that might discourage a star player from joining forces with the four-time league MVP.
“So much hype comes from being around LeBron from other people,” Durant said. “He has so many fanboys in the media. Even the beat writers just fawn over him. I’m like, we’re playing basketball here, and it’s not even about basketball at certain points.
“So I get why anyone wouldn’t want to be in that environment because it’s toxic. Especially when the attention is bulls— attention, fluff. It’s not LeBron’s fault at all; it’s just the fact you have so many groupies in the media that love to hang on every word. Just get out of the way and let us play basketball.”
Established players who have the capability to adjust and mold their games will fare the best, Durant said.
“Kevin Love, he had to totally change his game to fit, to be a shooter. Which, I think, he deserves way more credit for switching his game. Bosh, same way,” Durant said of Chris Bosh, James’ former teammate with the Miami Heat. “LeBron is a player that needs to play with guys that already know how they play the game — and shooters. Like, young players that are still developing, it’s always going to be hard because he demands the ball so much, he demands control of the offense and he creates for everybody.”
Bosh, in an appearance Wednesday on ESPN’s The Jump, mostly agreed with Durant’s take.
“KD knows the game. He’s played with LeBron, actually,” Bosh said. “They’ve won a gold medal together. So anytime you play with great players you’re going to have to adjust — point blank, period.”
But Bosh said free agents’ thoughts on a next destination aren’t set in stone.
“There’s still so much more basketball to play,” Bosh said. “KD, Kawhi, all these guys who are going to be free agents, their mindset now is going to be totally different six months from now. So guys have to remember that. And that’s not going to stop the conversation about it. But the league might change. Who know’s what’s going to happen in the playoffs? There’s always so many different moving parts. You can never try to make up your mind and know what you’re going to do in that time.”
Multiple other veteran players discussed the dynamic of playing with James to Bleacher Report.
Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, a teammate of Leonard’s this season, described it as the “LeBron Effect.”
“He puts a lot of pressure on you, but he takes a lot of pressure off of you, too,” Lowry said. “You know what you’re getting. He’s earned that, but he’s human. If you’re a strong enough personality, you can handle it.”
“Guys similar to (LeBron), why would they want to play with somebody who does all the same things?” Ariza said. “I can see why they would want to play elsewhere.”
Lakers coach Luke Walton said he didn’t read the Bleacher Report story but defended James, calling him an “incredible teammate.”
“He’s very unselfish. He’s won multiple championships with other superstars. So I don’t really …. Again, I haven’t read the article so I can’t comment on that, but what you’re asking me, to me the question is, why would you not want to play with LeBron? He’s a winner and he’s an incredible player and he’s unselfish,” he said.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.