Reports of LeBron James’ interest in signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018 began circulating soon after his Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in June, with Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that rival executives believe the four-time MVP is “likely” headed for L.A.
Those rumors were only fueled by LeBron’s TV and movie production interests, his attendance at a Lakers summer league game, a tour through an L.A. private school with his wife, the purchase of a second home in Brentwood, happy birthday messages to Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and rookie Lonzo Ball, and his agent sitting courtside with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.
But cool your jets, NBA conspiracy theorists, say ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst:
So imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a long shot, according to league sources.
This should be a given, since the Lakers are nowhere close to fielding a roster that can help LeBron reach his stated goal of chasing Michael Jordan’s six championship rings. The 22-and-under crowd of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma may one day develop into the type of team that could complement James, but he turns 33 years old later this month, and he can’t afford to wait that long.
Yet, LeBron has remained non-committal to Cleveland, saying on media day that he will address his future in the summer, leaving the Cavaliers to straddle the line between building for now and later.
“LeBron is focused on this season and winning a championship,” LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, reiterated to ESPN.com. “At the appropriate time, we will explore all the options. Now is not the time.”
And these are the Lakers, the team that added Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain in their primes. They have the salary cap space to offer LeBron the max contract that he will reportedly demand (a luxury other suitors, like the Houston Rockets, do not have right now).
If the Lakers can off-load the $30 million-plus owed to Luol Deng and Jordan Clarkson for the next two years, they will have the room to make L.A. an even more attractive destination. Adding both James and Paul George remains a possibility, and their young stars would be awfully attractive trade bait should Johnson and Lakers GM Rob Pelinka want to add veteran talent around an aging superstar.
“Long shot”? Sure. Impossible? Nope. Welcome to the speculation that is another LeBron free agency.
– – – – – – –