It took LeBron James just three games to get testy with reporters this season, and Stephen A. Smith won’t stand for the media slander.
After the Lakers continued their opening-week collapse with a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday night, James was left to answer questions about his team’s poorly constructed roster, which is often highlighted by Russell Westbrook’s shooting woes.
With the Lakers up by one point late in the fourth quarter, Westbrook opted to try a two-for-one rather than take some time off the clock and the point guard bricked his rushed jumper, resulting in a 106-104 win for the Blazers. But when reporters fairly asked James about the decision to attempt a two-for-one, the Lakers superstar called out the media for headline fishing.
"I feel like this an interview of trying to set me up to say something… You guys can write about Russ and all the things you guys want to try to talk about Russ. I'm not up here to do that. I won't do it. I've said it over and over. It's not who I am."
— LeBron James pic.twitter.com/DzOIpeolUH
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) October 24, 2022
“I feel like this is an interview trying to get me to set me up to say something,” James said three questions into his postgame press conference. “I can tell you guys are on the whole Russell Westbrook category right now. I don’t like to lose. I hate to lose in any — I don’t care what happens over the course of the season, during the course of my career, I hate to lose, especially the way we had this game. But give credit to Portland. You guys are going about Russ and all the things you guys wanna try to talk about Russ but I’m not up here just to do that.”
Monday morning on ESPN’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith fired back at James’ media slander, reminding the future Hall-of-Famer that he left himself open for this line of questioning just a few days earlier.
“You are a brilliant brother, brilliant basketball player, brilliant mind,” Smith noted of James on First Take. “But don’t think you’re that damn smart that you get to navigate through this. We, talking about the media setting you up to get at Russell Westbrook. No, my brother, you did that. Opening night, when you said, ‘we’re not a team of shooters,’ you knew good and damn well who everybody was gonna look at. And you said it anyway. You gotta own that my brother.”
If the Lakers aren’t a team “constructed of great shooting” as James previously stated, then the decision by Westbrook to chuck a jumper instead of running out the clock is one that deserves to be questioned. The media was doing their job during James’ postgame presser, it wasn’t part of some grander set up as he alluded to.
And if James is already on edge with the media after just three games, it doesn’t bode well for a season that appears destined for mediocrity at best. He attempted to extinguish the Westbrook dumpster fire Sunday night by pointing a finger at the media, but the questions will keep coming for as long as the shots keep missing.