From the day it was announced that the Suns were going to buyout Tyson Chandler, who then turned around and signed with the Lakers, there was a sense that Phoenix GM James Jones was doing his former Cleveland teammate LeBron James a favor. The Lakers desperately needed another big man in the paint ASAP, and while buyouts traditionally happen after the February trade deadline, suddenly a close friend of LeBron’s was making one available.
That’s because LeBron wielded his power and made a call, reports Ken Burger of Bleacher Report.
[Not buying out Chandler until after the trade deadline] was the plan…until LeBron called in a favor. It’s no coincidence that the facilitator was Suns vice president of basketball operations James Jones, a close friend and longtime teammate of James.
“They could have bought him out at the trade deadline and gotten great leadership and mentoring for two-thirds of the season,” a rival executive told B/R. “But LeBron wanted him now.”
LeBron wields that kind of power. And LeBron has called Jones “my favorite player of all time.”
This is not the first time the LeBron/Jones connection rumor was brought up, Dave McMenamin of ESPN wrote this:
“James did LeBron a solid,” a league source told ESPN.
When presented with the claim, LeBron said it was really Chandler who benefited the most.
“He deserves all the credit,” he told ESPN of Jones. “He was very instrumental. He did right by Tyson as a veteran.”
This is how business gets done in the NBA — as big and as closely watched as the NBA is, it is about relationships at the end of the day. General managers tend to make more trades with other GMs they have a relationship with. For example, people out of the Spurs tree of execs deal more often with each other than people outside it. This isn’t new, it goes back through Jerry West sending Pau Gasol to the Lakers, and long before that. People prefer to work and deal with people they are comfortable with, that’s true in every walk of life and the NBA is no different.
So LeBron called in a favor, and the Lakers are better for it. Welcome to how the NBA works.