On Wednesday, those two players may know, the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat will play a crucial Game 3 of a championship series that's currently knotted up at 1-1. This Finals, though intriguing, has not drawn the same kind of ratings as the two conference finals that preceded it, a fact the NBA would surely love to alter.
So it must be particularly galling that LeBron and Kyrie have somehow again found a way to suck much of the oxygen out of the room, forced the game's spotlight to shine yet again in their direction, and generally aim to make this moment more about them than the NBA.
"This is what LeBron does," one NBA source who's worked with LeBron says. "He can't help himself."
Same for Kyrie.
The latest example is the report on Monday from The Athletic that Irving, an impending free agent, reached out to his former teammate to see if the James has any interest in joining him in Dallas.
This is preposterous for several reasons, not the least of which is the timing, smack in the middle of a series worth fans' attention but not drawing it the way yet it should.
Again: Preposterous stuff.
Devoid of players or picks Los Angeles would even remotely consider — and thus no path for the kind of sign-and-trade you'd need to likely make the numbers work under the new CBA — the only other path for this to happen would be the Lakers buying out LeBron James and allowing him to freely, with no return, head to Dallas.
A third time: This is preposterous stuff.
And yet Irving or James (or both) made sure this supposed private conversation made its way to a newsbreaker whose every utterance becomes the narrative.
Worth noting: James has made no secret of his desire to play with Irving again, and so, even if Kyrie leaked this info, it was almost certainly a LeBron-approved operation.
This is about leverage, or the misguided idea one or both of these stars can capture it — and, according to NBA league sources familiar with the situation, about a related message from Irving to the Lakers: Pay me if you want me, and expect no discounts.
"LeBron's not going to Dallas," one source said. "That doesn't even make sense. This is about Kyrie telling (Lakers general manager) Rob (Pelinka) that he's not taking a discount. And about LeBron trying to create some leverage."
There are ironies stacked atop ironies here.
First, it was Irving, years ago, who dashed out of Cleveland shortly after he helped James and the Cavaliers win a championship. That exit — many would call it a betrayal — was followed by passive-aggressive and outright aggressive shots at … LeBron.
Irving never found a remotely similar level of success after that. The Celtics were and are better without him, once he left. The Brooklyn Nets bet much on him, and that led to disaster — James Harden forcing his way out one year, and then, later, the whole thing disintegrating.
That Kevin Durant is in Phoenix, Harden is preparing to decide whether to stay in Philadelphia or go back to Houston, and Irving is in Dallas but clearly open to dashing their hopes, too, speaks to the unreliability he has always brought alongside his basketball greatness.
There's irony emanating from LeBron's side, too. King James may be basketball royalty — I, personally,— but he's almost as bad a shadow GM in his career as he has been a stunning, transcendent player.
This past trade deadline certainly showcases that. With James' latest plan, the ill-fated Russell Westbrook experiment, turned to ashes, Pelinka was finally liberated to conduct business sans the King's poorly-chosen decrees.
What a concept: A GM getting to be a GM.
The result was a not-so-sexy, but utterly successful haul: Rui Hachimura, D'Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley sparked a late-season Lakers renaissance. They had the fourth-best record in the NBA, and the best in the Western Conference, between the Feb. 9 trade deadline and the end of the regular season.
Then they went and made the Western Conference Finals, too.
Yet here we are, in June, with the Finals in full swing, and James and Irving leaking a private plan between themselves as a way to try and force a reunion that, like most of LeBron's plans and all of Kyrie's, will turn into an utter and total disaster.
And to compound it — to add insult to the sure injury that will become of whatever team teams up with Kyrie next year — these two stars are weaving their look-at-me, not-so-subtle, not-gonna-work leverage play in the midst of an NBA Finals that should be front and center.
That's the unwritten rule here: Don't distract from the game's showcase event.
That's why Adam Silver told the media in Denver last week he'd wait until after the Finals to announce the "additional information" the NBA uncovered and the resulting penalty awaiting Ja Morant. It's why much NBA news will have to wait.
This, though, has always been LeBron and Kyrie's way. That, at least, they have in common. That need of, or perhaps lack of, awareness for making moments that should be about others about them.
Because this sideshow could have waited. The idea that LeBron will be a Maverick next season, according to a host of NBA sources and general common sense, is as ludicrous as the notion LeBron actually considered retirement after the Lakers got swept by the Denver Nuggets a few weeks ago.
But there, again, we were: When we should have been talking about Denver's first-ever Finals appearance and the greatness of its own two-time MVP, Nikola Jokic, the conversation turned to a failed Lakers team and James' fake thoughts about walking away.
Here, we once again have a whole lot of transparent garbage distracting from what actually matters while accidentally reminding us of the facts those spewing it would rather us not know: That LeBron James is still stunningly bad at hoops maneuvers away from the court, and that Kyrie Irving is not worth the trouble.