Reports: Suns interim GM James Jones did LeBron James favor by buying out Tyson Chandler’s contract

Suns' Josh Jackson (20) reacts after turning the ball over against the Celtics during the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Ariz. on November 8, 2018.

LeBron James loves him some James Jones.

“He’s my favorite player of all time,” James once said in an ESPN article back in 2015.

Jones has a fondness for James, too, as they won three NBA titles together in Miami and Cleveland.

And based on what anonymous sources have told Bleacher Report and ESPN, their friendship factored into Phoenix buying out Tyson Chandler’s contract earlier this week.

According to Bleacher Report, an unnamed “rival executive” said James “wanted” Chandler now, instead of later in the season or right before the trade deadline in February.

A “league source” told ESPN that Jones “did LeBron a solid” as Chandler, 36, was due $13.6 million in what was the fourth and final year of his contract.

“(Jones) deserves all the credit,” James told ESPN. “He was very instrumental. He did right by Tyson as a veteran.”

This isn’t like when Minnesota traded Kevin Garnett to Boston for five players and two draft picks in a deal between friends and former Celtics teammates Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge.

McHale was the Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations when he and Ainge, the Celtics’ general manager, made a deal that gave Boston the defensive force and fiery leader of its 2007-08 NBA championship team. Ainge won NBA executive of the year. McHale was criticized for what was seen as doing a favor for his close friend, teammate and former team.

Chandler won’t be the main reason James and the Lakers win a title. He’s 36 and in his 18th season while Garnett still had great years left in him at age 31.

Still, if the reports are true, Jones helped a team in the same division by buying out a player who had played all but one game for Phoenix as a backup, and mentor to rookie 7-footer Deandre Ayton.

In his first game with the Lakers, Chandler grabbed nine rebounds and played key defense down the stretch in helping them beat Minnesota, 114-110, Wednesday night at Staples Center.

Chandler, who is from Compton, Calif., was clearly happy with the change.

“It’s exciting,” Chandler said before Wednesday’s game. “Being from here, watching the tradition over the years and then being able to be out here and be in the building. See all the (retired) numbers up there, it’s pride.”

Chandler, who coincidentally had his best game of the season against the Lakers with 14 points and 11 rebounds in an 131-113 loss last month in Phoenix, also talked about the opportunity to play with James.

“LeBron is the greatest player of our generation,” Chandler said. “So, to be able to lace them up with him, it’s a great opportunity. Like I told him, I’m going to follow his lead. He’s an incredible leader.”

James spoke highly of Chandler even before the two played a team together and had nothing but high praise for the center after the game.

“When you add a veteran like that who has experienced a lot,” James said. “They’re able to pick up on things very fast.”

Phoenix went 1-6 in the seven games Chandler played. So while he is a veteran leader, presence in the locker room, can still play and helped give Ayton a foundation to begin his career, Chandler was coming off the bench and could no longer be the game-changer Phoenix needed.

This opened the door for Richaun Holmes, 25, to play more minutes. At 25, he’s 11 years younger than Chandler and more active than him.

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