Possibly damaging the Lakers’ “King James” dreams is the franchise playing its own role in making the Cavaliers’ roster more attractive. The Lakers recently traded two of their young talents to Cleveland – easy-scoring guard Jordan Clarkson and high-flying forward Larry Nance Jr. Cleveland acquired a veteran point guard in George Hill who complements James well with his 3-point shooting, ability to be effective without the ball and defense, and also added a talented, athletic and young scorer in Rodney Hood, who could start for a lot of teams.
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The new-look Cavaliers sans an injured Kevin Love are 2-0 since the moves and fun to watch again. The Lakers have the ability to sign two major free agents this summer, but the Clippers don’t have that ability until 2019. Trading ex-Clippers star Blake Griffin just months after he signed a five-year contract has to be curious to a prospective free agent as well.“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive said. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him. The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”
“It’s built for stars. It’s built for entertainment. It’s built for cameras and bright lights, and it’s a great place for it. I hope everybody had a great weekend. I know I did. I know my family did. So it was a great weekend.” A necessary disclosure for all those Lakers fans who want so badly for James to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to come their way in free agency: This, much like the many alleged James-to-LA bread crumbs that have come before, means nothing. Yet with the Lakers fans’ dreams so tantalizingly close this weekend – James and fellow free-agent-to-be Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder in their city and their building and playing on the same team – it’s more than enough to help them hold onto that hope for the next few months.
The feeling among executives around the league is that James will choose between bolting for the Lakers and sticking with the Cavaliers next summer. The Lakers would offer him what he is looking for down the stretch of his career — a good place to move his family, a ready-made winning situation (if he could bring another top-tier star with him) and an opportunity to be connected with the entertainment industry. From a lifestyle standpoint, LA would be hard to beat.
Before the deadline, the entire future of the Cavs was latched to LeBron James’ 2018 free-agency decision. The moves they made, though, allow them to stay afloat as a franchise no matter what James does — and that could make James more likely to stay. “I would have said it was a 50-50 proposition that he would go back to Cleveland this summer before all of this, even a week ago,” one league executive told Sporting News. “I think this moves it more in the Cavs’ favor. They’re younger and deeper. If the lifestyle is all the same to him, and I don’t know that it is, I’d think he would stay in Cleveland.
“I would put it from 50-50 a week ago to now, something like 75-25 that he stays. Even if they don’t win this year, they’ve given themselves room to grow.”
When Larry Nance Jr. hears rumors about LeBron James, Paul George and/or DeMarcus Cousins potentially joining the Lakers, does he get excited? “Um, hmm. So-so. I mean, like I said, there are rumors that LeBron is going to go [everywhere]. There are rumors about everything. Obviously, everybody knows about the Paul George stuff and that whole saga. Now there’s [talk like], ‘LeBron may come to L.A. and he just bought a house there]!’ And yeah, we read all of that. We read all of the clickbait stuff. But in reality, we’re just focused on what’s in front of us. We’re just trying to be the best team we can be and if someone like LeBron James or Paul George or one of those stars does come here in the summer, then it’s like, ‘Whew! That would increase our win total by, like, 20!’ You read it. You look at it. But in terms of paying attention to it? Not too much.”
On Sam hearing that LeBron looking at a school in LA was a huge misunderstanding. Sam Amick: “Someone I really trust told me that the school subplot – that LeBron and his wife were already looking for a school in Los Angeles for their kids – was a complete misunderstanding. Maybe it’s not the case. But they said that he was shooting a commercial near that school and said, ‘I want to take a breather and get some shots in. Where is there a court near here?’ And he wound up shooting hoops at the school and then afterward, they were just poking around before going back to the commercial shoot. But they said he was shooting a commercial right nearby and that’s the only reason he was in the neighborhood. But who knows?”
My best advice when it comes to the looming third installment of the LeBron Sweepstakes: Don’t just assume he’s going to the Lakers in free agency … and don’t write off the Cavaliers yet. King James’ free agency choice is the storyline that will lord over the whole league in 2018, but I tend to believe he’s still months away from knowing what he wants to do, despite the persistent chatter that he’s Hollywood-bound.
Magic Johnson’s biggest task will be to give Lonzo Ball — who is averaging 12 points, 10.3 rebounds, 7.6 assists and 3.3 steals in his past three games — superstars to pass to. The Lakers will try to add two stars this summer when LeBron James is expected to headline the free agency class, and Worthy thinks his old point guard will not come up empty-handed. “You look at what Magic Johnson has been able to do throughout his basketball career, [and] in his post-basketball career, he’s been able to manifest pretty good deals,” the former Lakers great said. “When Magic is in the room, that is a major asset trying to recruit. “With Kobe [Bryant] gone and the young core players that we have, and I think players understand and see what Lonzo Ball brings to the table as a point guard, I really think we are in a good place and I think [Johnson] will be able to deliver next year.”
Lavar Ball also said he is confident that LeBron James, whom he has never met, will be coming to the Lakers this offseason as a free agent. “LeBron’s coming to L.A. I know he’s coming to L.A.,” Ball said. “LeBron is not a fool. What’s the only way he can beat Jordan? You can’t get more championships. Only one way, to say every team I’ve gone to I’ve won a championship. Go to Lakers and win a championship, then you’re better than Jordan.
According to NBA insider Eric Pincus, the Lakers will target both DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George closer to the NBA Trade Deadline. “Plan A for the Lakers is still LeBron James. Having said that, at the deadline, the Lakers have two targets: Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins. I think George is more of a long shot since the Thunder seem to have figured things out over the last 10 games. However, the Pelicans are a different story because they’re just above .500. If they don’t climb the standings, they will be open to move Cousins,” Pincus said during the LakersNation Podcast.
Alex: What do you think LeBron will do? If you had to make a prediction: Do you think he re-signs in Cleveland? Or does he go to Los Angeles, Houston? What do you think he does? Marc Spears: I think it depends on how he finishes. I believe the way they lost at the end last time—or perhaps he decided earlier—but it seems like both his departures came after hard season endings, although his mind may have been made up before. Like, for example, no one probably would have mentioned [Philadelphia] beforehand, but now Philly is interesting, right? People would have assumed Lakers before, but now ‘oh, no, he wouldn’t consider the Lakers.’ With him, I think it’s fluid. And I also think that if the Cavs were to get the No. 1 pick, you know, get a top top pick with that pick, that potentially he could get a young guy—like, what if he was able to get a top-three pick there? It might be more attractive to stay. With him, to be honest, I don’t know that there’s a good prediction to make because there’s too many different scenarios going on that could affect what he decides.
LeBron James sure ain’t quieting down the noise surrounding him coming to L.A. … and ex-Lakers coach Byron Scott says the odds are damn good that happens. “I think it’s probably 50/50 right now,” Byron told TMZ Sports outside Craig’s in WeHo.
James downplayed the L.A. connection on Thursday. “I see all the stupid noise that happens,” he said. “You know I can’t buy a home in L.A. I can’t live in L.A. It’s funny noise. But I don’t get involved in it. When I post things, I don’t look at comments because I’m so far removed from the white noise and the noise doesn’t matter to me.”
But on this night, the visual of LeBron James’ agent sitting next to the Lakers owner was enough to spin the NBA world off its axis. Forget that Rich Paul (LeBron’s agent) sometimes sits courtside in Washington with Zach Leonsis, the son of owner Ted Leonsis, where client John Wall recently got a $170 million extension. Or that Paul occasionally sits with 76ers part owner Michael Rubin in Philadelphia, where he represents star rookie Ben Simmons. Or that a few days later, Paul was in Denver, sitting with Nuggets GM Tim Connolly. Paul sitting with Buss had to mean something. Or nothing. Or everything. “If you know me,” Paul told ESPN. “You know it doesn’t mean anything other than I enjoy their company.”
It is a delicious fantasy. And yet, in the modern NBA, where superstars change teams and seismic shifts in power seem to shake the league every summer, it’s certainly not impossible. Lakers history is filled with similar feats of engineering, most recently in 2008, when they plucked Pau Gasol away from Memphis to team with an in-his-prime Bryant for two NBA championships. So imagining LeBron James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources. Still, expect the atmosphere, and the intrigue, to be as thick as the winter storm battering Cleveland when the Lakers and Cavaliers play Thursday night.
Sorry, Laker Nation — Robert Horry says LeBron swoopin’ up another castle in L.A. does NOT mean King James is joining Lonzo and friends next year. We got the Lakers playoffs legend leaving Blake Griffin’s comedy show in Hollywood … and Horry broke it down for us, plain and simple. “You got money like that, you can have two big cribs anywhere you wanna have ’em!!” Big Shot Bob told TMZ Sports.
Where is Nerlens Noel going to have the surgery? In Cleveland, hometown of LeBron James and a headquarters for agent Rich Paul, who reps both LeBron and Noel and yeah, it’s kind of an open secret now that the fellas are plotting ways to end up together, maybe next July 1 via free agency to the Los Angeles Lakers.
A source close to James said the Cavs superstar and his family liked the new one better, and nothing should be construed about James’ future in Cleveland from the purchase. James can be a free agent at the end of this season, and the Lakers have been a rumored potential destination.
LeBron James’ business partner Maverick Carter said James — in the final year of his deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers — won’t start thinking about his next career step until about a week after the NBA season comes to an end. And when that time comes, location won’t play much of a role. “These days it doesn’t matter anymore,” Carter said during an interview on The Rich Eisen Show early Wednesday morning when asked specifically about the importance of where James plays. “The Lakers and the Knicks have been bad. The Knicks for a very long time and the Lakers since Kobe (Bryant) kind of aged out of being the best player or one of the best players in the league and basketball is doing as great as ever with teams in Oklahoma City and Cleveland. These days it doesn’t matter because you can be known and be a star from anywhere in the world. It doesn’t actually matter.
“Could he sell a few more sneakers if he was in a gigantic market like Boston, Chicago, New York, or L.A.? Maybe. But not as much as if he wins. What matters the most is if he wins. When you win as an athlete that matters the most.”
So if James, who owns a house in Los Angeles, wants to go in that direction when his NBA career starts winding down, doesn’t playing there make perfect sense? “I understand people keep saying that and thinking that. But the reason it doesn’t make sense is because if he does play in L.A. or he plays on the moon he can only shoot movies for three months,” Carter said. “It doesn’t matter. Even if he played in L.A. and wanted to be in a movie, he can’t shoot from basically September to June.
How this season finishes and whether the Cavs can dethrone the Golden State Warriors will loom large when it comes to figuring out James’ future. As Carter said, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. “He never starts thinking about it before the end of the season, Carter said. “Whenever their season ends and hopefully it’s in June for his sake and the sake of his family because he goes crazy at home, usually a week after. Decompresses, lets it all calm down and then a week after. Sometimes he can take a little longer but at least a week after.”
Undisputed: “I was at the Lakers game last night, and the agents for Paul George and LeBron were there… just an observation.” — @Chris_Broussard
Beck: I don’t know, and no one else does either. I do believe, based on people I’ve spoken with in the last six months, that there’s a reasonable chance he leaves Cleveland again. I’ve had team executives swear—as long ago as May—that LeBron’s departure was a near certainty. The general belief around the league is that, if he does leave, he’ll land with the Lakers. How much of that is belief/speculation vs. inside knowledge is hard to say.
Well, OK then, LaVar. But there’s just one problem: LeBron plays for the Cavaliers. Not for long, according to LaVar. He’s convinced LeBron will join Lonzo in Los Angeles next season: “I know it’s gonna happen,” Ball said. “Let’s just keep it real on the business aspect. [LeBron] is one of the best players probably, over Jordan … but the fact is he hasn’t won enough. You been to the Finals too many times and haven’t won enough. “But the other thing that makes you better is if you do a three-peat and you won for three different teams. You went to Miami and won. You went to Cleveland and won. Now come to L.A. and win, and guess what? Now you’re the greatest player ever if you win two or three in a row.
Reiter then followed up with the question on everyone’s mind: If LeBron comes to L.A. to join Lonzo, whose team will it be? “Whose team is it? Man, everybody know whose team it is — it’s Lonzo Ball’s team! LeBron’s coming over here to join us. We ain’t going over there to join him! If you come to my house, and you need somewhere to stay — it ain’t your house because you came here to stay. It’s my house!”
Speculation says LeBron James leaves Cleveland after this season. Former Post columnist Peter Vecsey wrote James “unequivocally” will bolt for the Lakers. “I think he leaves and he goes somewhere and he can always point back to, ‘Guys, I came back and gave you everything I have. We won a title but now I have to move on. You traded one of our top players …’” said one rival executive. “And if they have success, it’s a whole other story.”
Accordingly, I’m publicly terminating the pandemic of speculation surrounding LeBron James’ playing plans past this season. For months, many in the media declared or composed presumption the Lakers would be the beneficiaries of his talents when he became a free agent July 1, 2018. I’m eradicating all conjecture and uncertainty! I’m comfortable now in stating unequivocally, LeBron will leave the Cavaliers a second time and join the Lakers, and return the team to LA Lore status.
Westbrook’s availability may be the most fleeting. Whispers around the NBA suggest James would love to team up with the explosive guard. How would teams defend two triple-double powerhouses like James and Westbrook? On most nights, they don’t… That said, when asked, various NBA executives believe Westbrook will eventually sign his deal with the Thunder.
Julius Erving: “So Lakers, I go back to Shaq when he left Orlando. He wanted to be in movies. There’s something there that’s better to be a part of while you’re playing, so there would be an easier transition after you get out. I could buy that. “I’ve gotten a couple calls from shows where LeBron is an executive producer or show financier, so maybe here in California, it’s a part of that in playing his last few there sets it up.”
At the top of the Lakers’ wish list has to be LeBron James, as the four-time MVP has reached the NBA Finals the last seven seasons and reports around the league suggest that James could be interested in signing with Los Angeles. If the Lakers are able to convince James to make the move then he will likely be involved in the recruiting process to get another star to join him, and according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, Westbrook could be his first choice: Whispers around the NBA suggest James would love to team up with the explosive guard.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN: Multiple league sources suggested to ESPN that a major motivating factor in the Lakers’ signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year, $18 million deal this offseason was because Caldwell-Pope is repped by Rich Paul, the same agent as James.
LaVar spoke with ClutchPoints this week to talk about the family’s new show on Facebook along with a few other few other topics including LeBron James potentially coming to the Los Angeles Lakers next year and whether he’d be a good fit playing alongside his son, Lonzo Ball. “Let me tell you this, it would be a great fit, and LeBron is coming to L.A,” LaVar told ClutchPoints. “What’s in Cleveland? You want to be a superstar, man. Superstar franchise. “It’s going to be like this, and I’m talking about reality. He’s going to say, ‘You know what? I went to Miami. Won a championship. Brought one back to my home town. I’m the only one to go to three different places and bring a championship.’
Bron was leaving Coral Tree Cafe in Brentwood on Sunday when we asked about the prediction Griffin made on the “View From the Cheap Seats” podcast … that LeBron will leave Cleveland for the Knicks. “Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A. period,” Griffin said … “I could see him going to New York before L.A.” So, how did Bron feel about that? “I don’t even know what you’re talking about, shawty,” LeBron told our female photog … right before hopping into his clean white Porsche.
Blake Griffin: “Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A., period. Listen, again, I have no idea. I think something is brewing with him and his group of guys. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but something’s brewing. And I think they’re going to try to make that work.”
While Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James has an offseason house in Los Angeles, many people got excited to see he mentioned L.A. as his “home” on Twitter.
It seems that NBA players are starting to believe the hype, with veteran Matt Barnes making his case during an appearance on ‘The Herd, With Colin Cowherd’. During the interview, Barnes suggested that the Lakers could be the ideal fit for James, in order to get a chance to work with Johnson on his post-playing career: No better place. Yeah, no question. I think with him, he bought a big old house out in Brentwood. LA is the place to be. I heard he wants to be in management after and I think no better person in the game to help model and shape him than Magic Johnson.
Woj was on ESPN this week talking about how the Lakers new regime – Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka – has basically been in full Paul George and LeBron James mode from the day they took over.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Their job is to make the Lakers a destination place again for the biggest free agents in the game. Lebron is going to be the biggest free agent in the game next year. The Lakers are going to be in full Paul George mode from now until July 1 next year … for Lebron, it’s started, and it started from the day they took over.
And, not surprisingly, opinions on his ultimate location were split among league executives in Las Vegas. Several felt confident he will head west to Los Angeles next summer, agreeing with the rumblings along those lines that have been going around the league for some time. Coincidental or not, this speculation was given an extra dose of fuel when James showed up at a Lakers Summer League game last Wednesday instead of going to the ESPYs.
That said, there exists a healthy amount of skepticism that James will be willing to play for a team that, even with his addition, doesn’t seem like it will be capable of competing on a level playing field with the Golden State Warriors. Thus, making that move would end his consecutive NBA Finals streak end at eight — assuming, as the entire league suspects, his Cavaliers will make it back there again next June. This is why some could see James hanging on for at least another year in Cleveland to better survey what’s out there if he did decide to leave the Cavaliers.
Add in the fact that Griffin and the Cavaliers parted ways only three days before the draft, with Griffin engaged in ongoing talks with the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls about possibly landing stars such as like Paul George and Jimmy Butler, and it’s safe to say that Gilbert is giving James every reason to let his eyes wander these days. The familiar dysfunction is enough to breathe life into all the possibilities that surround James elsewhere, chief among them the notion that he might take his talents to Manhattan Beach to play for the purple and gold next July.
As if Ball’s play wasn’t enough, or all those Lakers fans in attendance who spent the night screaming for James to come their way next summer or the fun fact that James himself was wearing a purple tie-dyed shirt, there was the sneaker subplot that made it even more compelling. As has been well-chronicled, Ball and his outspoken father, LaVar, are trying to buck the basketball shoe system by way of their Big Baller Brand. Rather than sign with the titans of industry, such as James’ Nike brand or Adidas or Under Armour, they have been going their own way by making their own shoes and apparel with the hopes of landing a massive payday down the line.
Sam Amick: Here in Vegas, where LeBron has come by to watch Lakers & Sixers, fan yells, “LeBron, come to the Lakers!” Fans trying to get his attention.
When Ball made his summer league debut Friday, his father LaVar Ball said that if the Lakers ever managed to team up James with his son, they would win a championship together. James can opt out of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers next summer. “Heck yeah!” LaVar Ball told ESPN. “Lonzo and LeBron? Come on man! That’s real deal. You don’t want to give him the best player in the world. You don’t want to give Lonzo the best player in the world and don’t get no championship? Shoot.”
Anthony would also be willing to play with LeBron James in Cleveland but as of now the two teams have not been able to come close to striking a deal. Anthony is also concerned that LeBron may leave the Cavs next summer once LeBron becomes a free agent. It has been speculated for weeks that James is interested in signing with the Lakers.
But that’s only the beginning. Simmons sees a much bigger picture that could come together. “What if I told you that 12 months from now, LeBron James, Paul George, John Wall, and Boogie Cousins will all be on the Los Angeles Lakers together?” he says. “Conspiracy Bill has some things that he doesn’t like about what’s going on. I think the LeBron James–[to]-L.A. [story], he hasn’t come out and denied it. Everyone’s talking about it in the league, it became public last month. He knows they’re talking about it and hasn’t said anything. Hasn’t said, ‘This is ridiculous. I’m so tired of hearing this. I want to finish my career in Cleveland.’”
Adrian Wojnarowski: For the Lakers, this is longer-term play to clear space for Paul George and LeBron James pursuit. Lonzo Ball on way at No.2.
Those close to James insist that he will opt out of his Cleveland deal next summer and that he’s very interested in moving to Los Angeles, where he owns a home, where his kids are enrolled in a private school (just in case the family moves west), and where James’ business conglomerate has established a base of operations.
Adrian Wojnarowski on LeBron James: Not only is there no guarantee he’s coming back… I’m not sure there’s an expectation he’s re-signing there. I think they feel that he’s very much in play to leave again and likely head out West to one of the L.A. teams.
Brian Windhorst: “If you’re gonna attract LeBron James next summer or if you’re gonna keep LeBron James if you’re the Cavs, you have to have the ability to say you can beat the Golden State Warriors. Right now, Los Angeles Lakers or Los Angeles Clippers can’t even begin to say that. The team with the best chances are the Cleveland Cavaliers. If they stay in that position, they’ll have a good chance to keep LeBron for the rest of his career.”
Multiple league sources I’ve spoken to think the Lakers or Clippers are viable destinations for King James. Jalen Rose said this week on First Take that he expects LeBron to make a move from Cleveland to California, where he already owns a house 30 minutes away from Staples Center.
One more victory, one more magnificent night at Oracle Arena, and James will get to run off with his buddies again somewhere warm. Miami. Los Angeles. Wherever. There’s a restlessness about James that craves the next big move, the next power play. Franchises are on watch again, believing nothing’s forever in Northeast Ohio. Sooner or later, there’s a belief that James comes into play again, a line of thinking that his inner circle has done nothing to dissuade. As for James himself, well, he has gone so far as to publicly describe an end-of-career scenario that doesn’t include Cleveland.
Stephen A. Smith: I’m in Miami last week. I’m in Miami a few months ago. Skip Bayless, I’m hearing about a return to Miami if this man wins. He ain’t going nowhere if he loses. But, if he wins, his options are open. LA, but especially Miami, a return to South Beach. Look man, there’s a lot going on. And there’s a lot riding on him winning. Losing changes everything, because it keeps there in Cleveland. But more importantly, it keeps him stuck, because he knows he can’t leave until he fulfills his promise. And if you can’t because you’re not a champion, that’s far worse than just choosing to stay because you want to. It’s going to get very interesting. Keep your eyes on it.
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February 21, 2018 | 8:43 pm EST Update
After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.
Away from the Spurs to pursue second opinions in New York, Kawhi Leonard recently utilized the gymnasium inside the National Basketball Players Association headquarters in Manhattan for workouts, league sources told ESPN. The Spurs had team personnel accompanying Leonard in New York, sources said.
The injury, rehabilitation and timetable for a return has complicated the Spurs and Leonard’s relationship, causing tension and fraying the fabric of what was once a strong partnership, league sources told ESPN. The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.