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Nick Wright Claims Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving And Jimmy Butler Changed And Stayed In The East To Avoid LeBron James

Nick Wright Claims Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving And Jimmy Butler Changed And Stayed In The East To Avoid LeBron James

When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time and joined the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2018, not much changed. He wasn't considered a menace for the Western Conference, as the Lakers only won two more games than the previous season, which meant LeBron failed to make the playoff for the third time in his career. 

The following summer, the league witnessed a major overhaul where several players changed squads, creating duos and partially ending the superteam era. After LeBron joined the Lakers, Kawhi Leonard made the move from Toronto to Los Angeles, while Kevin Durant left Golden State and joined the ambitious Brooklyn Nets alongside Kyrie Irving. 

These moves were celebrated at the time, but Nick Wright recently claimed a series of players stayed or switched conferences to avoid facing LeBron in the playoffs. 

With the ongoing debates about whether LeBron James is feared around the league or not, Wright, one of the biggest defenders of James, made a case suggesting that several stars went to the East out of fear for Bron. 

"You can say you're not afraid of a grizzly bear, but if you see one walking down the path and you run in the other direction, then you're afraid. And what we have seen, for the league as a whole over the last dozen years, is guys run away from LeBron. They can't play with LeBron, they run as far as they can."

"Oddly, around 2019 something happened. Everyone started going East. Kevin Durant, all that success out West, 'Let me go East.' Jimmy Butler, 'I can go anywhere I want, let me stay East.' Kyrie Irving, 'I can go anywhere I want, let me stay East.' James Harden, 'I've been in the West let me force my way...' where do you wanna go? 'Philly or Brooklyn, I don't care, somewhere out East.'"

"So, what was the moment? Oh ... LeBron went East to West, so the league as a whole was like, well, if I wanna make the Finals, I can't be in LeBron's conference, so let me go to the other one. So, don't tell me you're not scared. Show me you're not scared."

That is very debatable knowing that James didn't have a good first season with the young Lakers team. Yes, they traded for Anthony Davis during that summer, but at the time, the Golden State Warriors still had a great team (even with Durant and Thompson injured). Kawhi Leonard came from winning a championship with the Raptors and could stay in the East, yet he decided to compete against LeBron and his Lakers. 

Right now, Durant's Nets and Butler's Heat ranking 1st and 2nd in the Eastern Conference, respectively. Jimmy even played in the 2020 NBA Finals against James, so you could say his move to Miami played off for the swingman. 

This is a big debate and you can say Wright has valid points, but it's fair to say that nobody thought LeBron would do well after his disappointing first campaign with the purple and gold.