INDIANAPOLIS • Despite becoming the fifth player in National Basketball Association (NBA) history to pass 32,000 points, LeBron James had little cause for celebration on Tuesday.
Not only did the forward suffer the biggest margin of defeat of his NBA career as the Indiana Pacers humbled the Los Angeles Lakers 136-94, but it was also clear for all to see at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse that the Anthony Davis trade rumours had divided the team into two camps - James and everybody else.
Social media was abuzz over TV footage, which captured the 15-time All-Star, who had a team-high 18 points, sitting three chairs apart from the rest of his teammates near the end of the game. To many, it was a symbol of how fractured the Lakers are at the moment.
Reports earlier this week indicated that the team had offered as many as six players in a bid to land New Orleans Pelicans star Davis and, according to ESPN, James and Rajon Rondo have been the "only players whose play hasn't been affected by the talks".
The Pacers, who were paced by 24 points from Bojan Bogdanovic, capitalised on the disharmony by tying their franchise record with 19 three-pointers, while forcing 19 Lakers turnovers, and their fans mercilessly taunted Brandon Ingram when he stepped up to the free-throw line, yelling: "LeBron's going to trade you."
While the forward, who scored 12 points, later claimed it was just white noise, having "been through and heard way worse things in my life", he cryptically referred to the speculation, saying he could "only control what I can control".
James, who had to sit out the Lakers' previous game after returning from a 17-game absence, also felt that the hostile reception was "just fans being fans", saying: "If you let that bother you, you're in the wrong sport."
Biggest points margin of defeat LeBron James suffered in the LA Lakers' capitulation to the Indiana Pacers, against whom he also scored his 32,000th point.
However, he conceded to reporters that the gossip had thrown his teammates off their game.
He added: "I know it has to be tough on a lot of our guys, especially our young guys. Right now, they've just never been a part of it and they're hearing it every single day. I know the worst thing you can do right now is to be on social media.
"I know all young guys love social media. That definitely can't help."
Post-game, Lakers coach Luke Walton admitted to website Spectrum SportsNet that the trade rumours "affect everyone differently", before adding: "We know we have to be a lot better.
"There's a million excuses that we can come up with - the travel, the first game coming across the country, everything else. Bottom line is we have to be better."
But, with the Lakers (27-27) now 21/2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final play-off spot in the West and three successive road games at the Boston Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks to come, the team could slip even further from contention by next week.
The team are certainly facing an uncertain post-season after the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday that they had informed the Pelicans that they were pulling out of trade talks for Davis.
According to the newspaper, the Lakers had modified their offer to the Pelicans and were willing to trade Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Ingram, Josh Hart, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Ivica Zubac.
In addition, they had agreed to part with two first-round draft picks and to take Solomon Hill and his US$12.7 million (S$17.1 million) contract along with Davis.
However, a source told the Times the Pelicans "wanted more and more and more" and "there was no more to give". The Times and ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Pelicans wanted eight draft picks instead - four first-round and four second-round picks. But Wojnarowski hinted the deal could be revived if New Orleans return with a counter-offer.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS