LeBron James has no response, but are Kevin Durant's 'toxic' comments wrong?
LOS ANGELES — LeBron James vowed on Wednesday night to seek more information about the controversial comments made by Kevin Durant claiming the environment surrounding James with the Los Angeles Lakers is "toxic."
James insisted he had not read excerpts from a Bleacher Report article in which Durant indicated that potential free agents may shy away from the Lakers due to the incessant attention and focus upon its biggest star. Durant also commented that James is treated softly by "fanboys" in the media who "fawn" over him.
"I did not," James said when asked by USA TODAY Sports if he had seen the story and the "toxic" comment. "I believe that's probably not the whole quote so I am not going to comment on that.
"I will love to see the whole transcript of what was asked of him, the context of what was asked, why it was asked, and the whole thing. I am not going to comment on it. I don’t know the whole thing — that would be stupid on my part. I am a veteran."
James also said that he had not heard from the Golden State Warriors forward on Wednesday, either for purposes of clarifying his quotes or for any other reason.
"No," James added. "I have been sleeping."
LeBron James declines to comment on the Bleacher Report story or KD’s comments about it. Doesn’t want to make a statement without full context of the questioning and quote. pic.twitter.com/Jb7ilj7mud— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) December 6, 2018
Released hours before James scored 42 points in the Lakers' 121-113 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center, it didn’t take long for Durant’s words to bounce around the NBA world, collecting comment and conjecture at every step.
Given that Durant’s remarks contained two magic ingredients — controversy and James — they were also going to create a stir, and maybe that was the point.
But was he wrong?
"He has so many fanboys in the media," Durant said in an interview with Ric Bucher. "Even the beat writers just fawn over him. I get why anyone wouldn’t want to be in that environment because it’s toxic."
Let’s take the last bit first. Being part of a team that is constantly surrounded and scrutinized probably isn’t that much fun. Yet if things were so toxic in James’ circle, would he have made eight straight NBA Finals? And would the Lakers, short on experience and not exactly overflowing with talent, be 15-9 with 13 wins in their last 17 outings?
Durant’s words give a pretty strong indicator of where his thoughts stand as free agency looms, but that doesn’t mean Klay Thompson or Anthony Davis or any other superstar feels the same. Kawhi Leonard appears happy with the Toronto Raptors, but while some stars may have reservations about stepping into James’ shadow, others will see it as the best route to contending for a title.
No matter how much he gets fawned over, and regardless of Durant’s definition of toxic.
As for the media comment, which, make no mistake, Durant intended as a criticism of the press and not James, it gets a bit trickier. For purposes of clarification, I’m not a Lakers beat writer — I cover the league in general, focusing largely on the Western Conference.
Beat writers don’t have it easy. Reporting on one team day-in, day-out is a grueling task. Does the risk of alienating a team’s biggest star provide a deterrent for beat writers to be overly critical? Possibly, but if that is indeed the case with the Lakers then it certainly wouldn’t be the only place where it applies.
To be fair, Durant has plenty of admirers among the press corps too and doesn’t exactly get harangued by those who cover the Warriors beat in the Bay Area.
Some of the other things Durant said made plenty of sense.
• "So much hype comes from being around LeBron from other people."
No argument there. That’s the nature of being on a team with the most famous player in the world.
• "It depends what kind of player you are. If you’re Kyle Korver, then it makes sense. If you’re a younger player like a Kawhi, trying to pair him with LeBron James doesn’t really make sense."
This has merit, too. It is human nature that a solid veteran like Korver may see more value in helping James to a potential championship than a younger superstar who might want to forge his own legacy.
• "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."
Okay, now wait a minute. You don’t mean that, KD, surely not? Not when you are the guy who coughs and splutters at any perceived slight on Twitter, possibly from a fake account used to defend yourself from criticism.
Just play basketball? Like when you stared down Rihanna as she sat courtside during the Finals two years ago, because you didn’t like that she was cheering for some guy on the other team. Some guy called LeBron.
You like the drama, dude. And that’s fine. If we’re being honest, so do we.
Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter @RogersJourno.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LeBron James has no response, but are Kevin Durant's 'toxic' comments wrong?