Sports

Los Angeles Lakers Fighting Just to Make N.B.A. Playoffs

James, who has been known during his career to make coded remarks, raised eyebrows when he praised the Los Angeles Rams’ general manager, Les Snead, after the Rams won the Super Bowl, then praised the Oklahoma City Thunder’s general manager, Sam Presti, when asked an innocuous question about one of his players at an All-Star Weekend news conference. Some read his remarks as veiled criticisms of the Lakers’ front office.

James then told The Athletic that he hadn’t closed the door on returning to Cleveland, leading to a mountain of speculation about whether the marriage between James and the Lakers was effectively over.

In hindsight, it clearly isn’t. In the week after the All-Star Game, James insisted too much was being made of his comments. Vogel referred to them as “just noise.”

James’s agent, Rich Paul, met with Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ vice president for basketball operations, and Jeanie Buss, the team’s governor and chief executive, to assure them James was committed to being a Laker, according to multiple people with knowledge of the meeting.

As the agent for the most important current Laker in James and the second most important in Anthony Davis, Paul has built a close relationship with Pelinka and Buss. Their conversation last week helped to soothe potential rifts borne of the frustration that comes with such a disappointing season.

In the week since, the Lakers and their biggest star have all presented a face of unity and harmony.

What that meeting could not do, though, was change what was happening on the court.

Davis has been out with a foot sprain since Feb. 16. In all, he has missed 24 games this season. James has missed 17. The last time James, Davis and Westbrook played in the same game together was in Brooklyn on Jan. 25.

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