LeBron James has reportedly wanted the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire Kyrie Irving since the offseason. When Irving requested a trade on Friday, James not so subtly hinted at his interest in reuniting with his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate by tweeting the eyes emoji, which Lakers assistant coach Phil Handy quickly copied in the replies. But when the dust settled, Irving became a member of the Dallas Mavericks rather than the Lakers, and in an interview Monday with Michael Wilbon, the four-time MVP didn't attempt to hide his displeasure.
"I can't sit here and say I'm not disappointed on not being able to land such a talent," James told Wilbon. "Someone I had great chemistry with, I know I got great chemistry with on the floor, that can help you win championships in my mind, in my eyes. But my focus has shifted now, my focus has shifted back to where it should be and that's this club now, and what we have now."
James' desire for more help has extended beyond Irving thus far this season. At 25-29, the Lakers have fallen to 13th in the Western Conference despite an All-NBA-caliber season from James. Reports indicated that he was hoping for a significant move early in the season, when the Lakers were most heavily linked to Myles Turner and Buddy Hield of the Indiana Pacers. That move didn't come to fruition, and now Turner has signed an extension with the Pacers. There are still three days left before the trade deadline, so the Lakers have time to improve, but Irving, specifically, would seemingly have been James' preferred acquisition.
James has pushed the Lakers to acquire ball handlers in the past in order to ease his responsibilities as a shot-creator. At 38 years old, he simply cannot carry quite the same load he did in his 20s, yet this approach has led to disappointing moves like the acquisition of Russell Westbrook. Irving is a proven fit alongside James, though, as they won a championship together with the Cavaliers. Unlike Westbrook, Irving is an excellent shooter and off-ball offensive player, so the two would likely have been able to adjust to playing together again fairly quickly.
Alas, that opportunity has seemingly passed them by. For now, Irving is a member of the Mavericks, and James is focused on reaching the postseason with the players the Lakers currently have. "If we go in healthy, we can compete with anybody," James said in his interview with Wilbon. That might be true, but reinforcements of some kind before Thursday's trade deadline sure wouldn't hurt.