LeBron James Praises Lakers and Luke Walton, Compares LA to Warriors

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2018

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 11, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)
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After suffering a 127-113 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, LeBron James was extremely complimentary of the team that beat him and its coach.

"Since Luke (Walton) took over they've improved every single season and you just try to implement that," James said of the Lakers after the game, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. "That ball movement, that body movement that he had when he was in Golden State."

Los Angeles improved to 30-36 with Sunday's victory, which is already the most wins for the organization since 2012-13 season.

Walton took over as head coach of the Lakers after two years as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, helping the team win a title in 2015 before winning 73 games in 2015-16.

Los Angeles had 17 wins the year before he got there, improving to 26 wins last season before Walton helped the squad get into possible playoff contention this season. The team is 7-2 since the All-Star break.

Although in most cases these postgame comments would qualify as James simply praising the opponent, it's more interesting with the Lakers involved.

If James declines his player option for 2018-19, he would be a free agent this summer with just about every team in the league interested. According to Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer, however, the Lakers are one of four teams on his current list along with the Cavaliers, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers.

The Lakers ironically cleared extra cap space for free agents this summer, making a deadline deal with the Cavaliers, and James acknowledged this helped fuel speculation.

"I understand that the conversation happens here because first of all (the Lakers) have cap space," he said Friday, per Michael Singer of USA Today. Of course, he also said he won't talk about any free agency until it happens.

His future destination will likely remain a mystery until the offseason, but his admiration for the coaching after a loss could be telling.

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