NEW YORK: Defending NBA champions Cleveland Cavaliers, who stumbled to a 7-8 record in January, will apparently test free agents to find the help LeBron James has sought to improve the team.
ESPN reported Tuesday that veteran point guards Mario Chalmers and Kirk Hinrich are among several free agents that will work out for the team Wednesday before the Cavaliers play host to 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 center Chris Andersen, who has 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 moves deeper into the second half of the season and prepares for the NBA playoffs.
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 playoff series last May against the Cavaliers. The 13-year veteran has career averages of 10.9 points and 4.8 assists and a 38-percent 3-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.
James also defended himself after remarks from retired NBA star Charles Barkley, now a television commentator, saying James was "inappropriate" and "whiny" in calling on ownership to boost the Cavs' 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 checkered moments from Barkley's past.
"I'm not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid," said James. "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."
Chicago guard Dwyane Wade, another former Miami Heat teammate of James, was pleased to see his friend fire back verbally.
"Thank God he finally said something," Wade told ESPN. "LeBron, a lot of guys take a lot of shots at him, for whatever reason. [Barkley] acts like he just walked on water. I like the fact that LeBron called him out and told him about [himself] a little bit. Humble yourself. LeBron is who he is. We all have flaws, but when your flaws are a little bit more then you should shut up."