LeBron James Says He's 'Always Loved' Kyrie Irving Amid Lakers Free-Agent Rumors

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2019

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 7: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics talk during the game on February 7, 2019 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 2019 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving didn't have an ideal end to their partnership with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but any hard feelings between them appear to be a thing of the past.

According to ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin, LeBron was asked about his relationship with Kyrie on Saturday during an All-Star media session, and he had nothing but kind things to say about his former teammate:

"I think I've always loved Kyrie, from before I met him, until when I became his teammate, to even now. So the phone call, more than for me, I think just to see his growth ... It takes a real man and a real person—and a real person to understand who they are—to be able to call, or to do anything and be able to see their wrongdoings or believe they have some wrongdoings and then be able to come to grips with that and then be able to either apologize or say that, 'At that point and time, I thought I was ready for something, but I really wasn't.' ... I really don't want to talk about it too much, because it's not for everybody. ... I love Kyrie. I love everything about Kyrie."

James and Irving were teammates in Cleveland for three seasons, reaching three NBA Finals together and winning a championship. The Cavs traded Kyrie to the Boston Celtics prior to the 2017-18 season after he requested to be moved, and LeBron left Cleveland for the Los Angeles Lakers last offseason.

In January, Irving told reporters that he had called James to apologize for the way he handled his departure from the Cavaliers:

"Obviously, this was a big deal for me, because I had to call [LeBron] and tell him I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything at my threshold. I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that, and the responsibility of being the best in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people.

"[LeBron] was one of those guys who came to Cleveland and tried to show us how to win a championship, and it was hard for him, and sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world."

The Lakers will almost certainly be in search of a superstar to pair with James during the offseason, as they are just 28-29 this season and trail the Los Angeles Clippers by three games for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Trading for New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis is a possibility, as is pursuing Golden State Warriors shooting guard and L.A. native Klay Thompson in free agency.

While Irving said at an event for Celtics season ticket holders in October that he planned to re-sign with the team, he has backed off that statement to some degree since. When asked in early February about his free agency plans, Irving responded, "Ask me July 1."

A reunion between James and Irving once seemed nearly impossible, especially so soon after the end of their partnership.

Walking away from Boston may be difficult for Irving, especially if general manager Danny Ainge manages to land Davis in a trade. Based on how open LeBron and Kyrie have been about their respect for each other recently, however, Irving following James to L.A. can't be ruled out.

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