NBA: LeBron James fires back at Charles Barkley even as Cavaliers seek to reinforce team

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts after being taken out of their game against the Sacramento Kings.
LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts after being taken out of their game against the Sacramento Kings.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - LeBron James has defended himself after retired National Basketball Association (NBA) star Charles Barkley, now a television commentator, said James was "inappropriate" and "whiny" when he called on the Cleveland Cavaliers' owners to boost the club's talent level and would never be considered among the NBA's all-time top-five players.

"He's a hater," James told ESPN. "What makes what he says credible? Because he's on TV? I'm not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that."

James also noted chequered moments from Barkley's past.

"I'm not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid," James said.

"I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, 'I'm not a role model.' I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying.

"All I've done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way - 14 years, never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that."

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers, who stumbled to a 7-8 record in January, will apparently test free agents to find the help James has sought to improve the team.

ESPN reported on Tuesday that veteran point guards Mario Chalmers and Kirk Hinrich are among several free agents that will work out for the team on Wednesday before the Cavaliers host Minnesota.

The group also is said to include former New Orleans forward Lance Stephenson, with the report saying sources believe one of the players from the tryout could be signed before the mid-February break for the NBA All-Star Game.

The Cavaliers have a vacant roster spot and could create another by releasing centre Chris Andersen, who has suffered a season-ending knee injury.

James, who had not suffered a losing month in an NBA season since 2006, has called upon owner Dan Gilbert to add a veteran playmaker to the roster, preferably as a reserve to star point guard Kyrie Irving.

The Cavaliers are 32-15 and atop the Eastern Conference but James has stressed the need for continual improvement as the team move deeper into the second half of the season and prepare for the NBA play-offs.

Chalmers, 30, played alongside James for the four seasons he spent with the Miami Heat, reaching the NBA Finals four times and twice taking the title together. Chalmers, who has recovered from a torn right Achilles tendon suffered last March when he played for Memphis, has career averages of 9.0 points and 3.8 assists.

Hinrich, 36, played for the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks last year but has not seen action since a second-round play-off series last May against the Cavaliers. The 13-year veteran has career averages of 10.9 points and 4.8 assists and a 38 per cent three-point accuracy rate.

Stephenson, 26, has rehabilitated a groin injury following a November operation. He averaged 9.7 points, 4.8 assists and 3.0 rebounds in six games off the Pelicans bench.