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  • A vote of confidence is considered a death knell in sports, but LeBron James showed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope that it gets worse. When asked about his teammate's fate, James couldn't hide his desire to ship Caldwell-Pope.
By Rohan Nadkarni
December 14, 2018

It’s gotta be tough for an NBA player who sees his name swirling in the trade-rumor ethers. Management can only afford to be so upfront with him. He and his agent have to figure out what’s real and what’s not as countless reports filter in from a variety of sources. At least you should have the support of your teammates, right? That is usually the case, unless you are Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

A quick refresher for those not hip to KCP: His agent is Rich Paul, the same man that represents LeBron James (and now Anthony Davis!). Both of KCP’s Laker contracts (both one-year deals) felt something like LeBron/Paul appeasement.

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Well, it appears Caldwell-Pope’s utility for James has finally run out, because the Lakers have performed well without him, and there are trade targets (Trevor Ariza) who would make the team even better. So when asked about a potential trade involving KCP, LeBron went incredibly out of his way to justify the idea of a transaction.

Okay. First of all, the irony of LeBron saying all this stuff while wearing a “We Are Family” shirt. Really? You’re only family to Bron until you can be moved for a 3-and-D guy with championship experience. “If you get traded that don’t mean your paycheck stops” is a hilariously cold line from James. In the darkest reading of that statement, Bron is basically telling KCP he already got him his money, now Caldwell-Pope needs to get out of his way. In the most forgiving reading, LeBron is saying, “You’re getting paid no matter what, why are you complaining?”

Realistically, this is the kind of honesty we crave from athletes. James could have easily demurred, called KCP a great teammate, and said how this is a tough time for him. Instead Bron, who has never been in a rumor he didn’t create himself and wields more power than perhaps any athlete ever, told Caldwell-Pope to keep collecting his checks and keep improving his game so his next team doesn’t want to ship him out.

This is just a surprisingly pro-management take from someone who has changed the athlete-front office power dynamic more than any other player in NBA history. LeBron is definitely pro-labor, but even he won’t let that get in the way of competing, especially not with his Lakers off to an unexpectedly hot start. James always complains when people call him the GM of his teams; he sounded more ruthless than any front office employee when asked about KCP.

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