NBA rumors: Phil Jackson wanting to trade LeBron James, keep Russell Westbrook in Lakers?

On Wednesday, LA Times beat reporter Bill Plaschke, who only recently sat down for an hours-long one-on-one interview with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, kind-of sort-of reported that Jackson would prefer to trade LeBron and keep Westbrook during an appearance on Doug Gottlieb’s radio show. “I’ve heard that Phil would like LeBron traded. I’ve just heard that but I’ve got nothing to back that up. No on-the-record stuff to back that up. I do know that Phil would like to keep Westbrook and try to make that work with him.”

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Plaschke noted in his interview that in his discussion with Jeanie, she pushed back against the mere idea of trading LeBron, so it certainly doesn’t feel like that is a remote possibility. He also said he believes the Lakers would keep Westbrook next season and would make it a requirement for the next head coach to make it work with Westbrook, LeBron and Anthony Davis.
LeBron James received a lot of heat for the Lakers' struggles this season, but Magic Johnson tells TMZ Sports he still wants to see LBJ in a Lakers uniform for the foreseeable future. We spoke with Magic -- who won 5 titles with the Lakers during his career -- out in L.A. this week, and asked him if the Lake Show should trade its 37-year-old superstar after the team missed the playoffs this season. Magic told us absolutely not ... saying he wants LeBron in the purple and gold "for a long time."
If LeBron James ultimately decides against signing an extension with the Lakers in August, sources say Buss wouldn’t see his desire to play out the final season of his contract as a reason to consider trading him. Without an extension, James’ current deal will expire after next season (in which he’s owed $47.1 million). It’s a natural question to ask in these sorts of situations, as the notion of James leaving the Lakers empty-handed by signing elsewhere in the summer of 2023 would be less than ideal. Still, all signs point to the year-by-year approach being considered acceptable by the Lakers — so long as the relationship with James is still in a good place.
What piqued Windhorst’s interest, however, is the prospect of LeBron teaming up with Mavs superstar Luka Doncic in the future: “I would say something else though,” Windhorst said. “As part of this answer, LeBron was having fun here to be clear. He wasn’t making a declarative statement. He talked about how much he admires Luka Doncic, and that is something that you should put in your back pocket. “Don’t ever judge LeBron a hundred percent on his words, judge him on his actions. The best way you can see how LeBron feels about people is who he drafts in his All-Star draft. He has drafted Luka Doncic all three years he’s been an All-Star. He tried to recruit Luka Doncic to his brand within Nike a few years ago. Luka picked the Jordan brand instead. He, I think, would also love to play with Luka.”
It’s not just all about hearsay from Windhorst here. After all, he is one of the most respected NBA insiders in the industry. The ESPN analyst brings up an excellent point about LeBron’s affinity towards Doncic. In his mind, this potential partnership has more legs than that of a LeBron-Curry duo. “In the fantasy world, to use Steph Curry’s words, if you want to enter the fantasy realm, that is something I think is more worthy of having a discussion about as opposed to Steph,” Windhorst said. “[This is going to be] down the line — I don’t think LeBron’s going anywhere in the short term.”
For one, LeBron has another year left on his contract. So if he were to try and get back to Cleveland for next season, when the Cavs could be really good, Cleveland would either have to trade a bunch of the young players that are part of the team’s exciting core — which LeBron really likes — and probably throw in Kevin Love’s expiring $30 million contract, which the Lakers probably wouldn’t want in a rebuild. Two summers from now, LeBron would be a free agent, but he’s said his last goal in the NBA is to play with his eldest son, Bronny, who as of now will be NBA draft-eligible in the summer of 2024. The easiest, most logical place for the James family to play together is in Los Angeles, where the Lakers, with Paul’s help, can draft or sign him as a free agent. It’s much cleaner if Paul tries to direct Bronny to a team where his dad already plays.
In terms of the James factor, and the question of whether he has an issue with the Lakers’ power structure that is so often questioned by others, sources close to him continue to insist he does not. But the voices that still matter, as we’ve been reminded of late, don’t stop there. As Jeanie told our Bill Oram recently, she still relies on Johnson in the kind of way that surely impacts her view of this team and the uncertain future ahead. “To me, he’s still working with us,” she said. “In terms of his support, his wisdom, his insight, I freely call on him as needed.”
How does his stated desire to play with his son, Bronny, at the end of his own career come into play? There’s no way of knowing just yet, if only because there are so many unknowns on that front. He’s a junior at Sierra Canyon High in Los Angeles at the moment, one who is ranked 43rd in ESPN’s 2023 recruiting database. Based on current league rules, he’ll be draft-eligible in 2024 (the Lakers have no first-round picks that year, but do have a second-rounder). From Buss’ perspective, sources say her focus is on the macro elements of the partnership with James. His happiness matters a great deal, but so does his trust. Hence the reason you saw such staunch support from Paul in his post-meeting statement.
Marc Stein: I believe even more strongly now based on subsequent conversations, the Cavs do not want to do a third LeBron dance. This franchise, this organization, this ownership, this front office, they've had to hear for a zillion years, you've never done anything without LeBron.
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium appeared on Wednesday's episode of the Pat McAfee Show and reported, "I personally don't see a scenario where LeBron James is bolting from the Lakers to the Cavs. ... From everything I've been told his plan is to be a Laker for the foreseeable future."
Four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal issued a stark warning to the Los Angeles Lakers Monday, saying despite an abysmal season, it would be a huge mistake to trade the team’s biggest superstar, Lebron James. “If you trade LeBron, you’ll never win again,” O’Neal said of the Lakers in an interview with CNBC.
Brian Windhorst: 'I don't think LeBron wants to leave the Lakers … If they don't do anything this summer, and he doesn't extend in August, now we may have a different discussion. But today, my feeling from the conversations I had, he doesn’t want out. He just wants the Lakers to have their foot on the gas.'
Brian Windhorst: People in the league who have a lot of experience, say they should trade them both (LeBron James and Anthony Davis). And because again, it makes some sense. I just don't think they can do that. And I think this is going to be a severe, serious conversation that probably could hang over Lakers games.
Three, no one is convinced he’s truly looking to leave the Lakers. Or, more accurately, everyone is convinced his announcement was more about establishing what he would want to stay. "It’s a leverage play," a second Eastern Conference GM said. "I don’t see him wanting to leave. He’s out there in Hollywood now. That was what was behind the move out there in the first place."
"The dynamic of managing LeBron alone is a thing," the first GM said. "Could you imagine managing him while trying to manage his son?" The second GM echoed that sentiment.  "I can’t speak for all the other teams, but to plan for a 39-year-old and taking on his son, who I hear is just decent, to make moves for all that, I don’t see it," he said. "LeBron is still good, but he can’t carry you anymore. The only way I could see doing it is if you needed the box office draw."
Which, especially for small-market teams, would be quite the bonanza, one NBA team owner said. Hosting the last year of LeBron’s career "would be an automatic sell-out of every game," the owner said. "If Minnesota signed him, their gate would double. … Sponsorships would go up, and so would TV ratings. It would be temporary, though, so I’m not sure how many teams would want to deal with … accommodating all the requests [from LeBron]."
James’ agent, Rich Paul, has refuted reports that James is unhappy with the Lakers’ inactivity or Pelinka, but the GMs I spoke to aren’t buying it. "I heard that he was trying to get Sam Presti in there to replace Rob," the second Eastern Conference GM said. "I don’t see that happening, but I could see him trying to get Pelinka out of there."
Asked if he could see himself with this team long term, James was as direct about his future as he’s been. “This is a franchise I see myself being with. I’m here. I’m here,” James said. “… I literally live in the moment. I do. I live in the moment. I see myself being with the purple and gold as long as I can play. “But I also have a goal that if it’s possible — I don’t even know if it’s possible — that if I can play with my son, I would love to do that. Is that like, something that any man shouldn’t want that in life? That’s like the coolest thing that could possibly happen. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with this franchise.”
He also acknowledged his role in the Lakers’ roster reconstruction, a role he’s taken on throughout his career, though he put limits on his influence. “They ask for my opinion and I voice my opinion and what I believe,” James said of the organization for which he plays. “But I don’t press any buttons. That’s what our front office is for and that’s what our leadership group is for. I don’t press no buttons. So we can state that right now. I do wish that we were just playing better basketball.”
Asked if he believed the Lakers’ front office could construct a winner around him, James offered support. “Very confident. They’ve done it. They’ve shown me that,” he said of the 2020 NBA title the Lakers won. “Ever since I got here, the front office of Jeanie, Linda [Rambis], Kurt [Rambis], everybody, has welcomed me with open arms and has given me an opportunity to play for a historical franchise and welcomed my family in. And I just try to give back my part of the game and inspire kids and inspire people that want to follow the Lakers and put them back at a level that they’re accustomed to being. And that’s always been my focus.”
“I don’t understand how some of my comments over the weekend were taken to a whole different area … I never said I could see myself playing in a Cavaliers uniform. I talked to Jason Lloyd and he asked me, and I said, ‘Well, I don’t know what tomorrow holds. But actually, me playing for the Cavs, I don’t know. I don’t know about that. Could I see myself retiring as a Cav?’ And he asked me, like ‘What if you just came here and signed for a day and retired as a Cav?’ And I said ‘that possibly could be.’
“And then things about my son, me wanting to play with my son wherever he’s at — You guys take my words and just twist them to different places where they shouldn’t go. Like if I comment or compliment the GM that’s in OKC, I really believe that he’s done a phenomenal job. And you guys spin that to me saying that Rob (Pelinka) is not doing a great job. Or if I say the GM from the Rams, I loved his f*ckin T-shirt. I thought it was dope. And I believe the same way: I don’t care about picks. I only care about winning championships. How is that directed at Rob and the Lakers’ franchise? Rob has done the same thing. He went and got AD, he didn’t care about picks as well, obviously.”
But Paul strongly refuted the notion that there is any sort of divide between James and the Lakers, or that these were all signs of a grand exit plan that’s yet to come. And when the meeting was all done, one in which Paul said some of the time was even spent “laughing and catching up,” he says they all found themselves in a more productive, peaceful place. “I just don’t think (communicating indirectly) is the right way of doing business,” Paul, who also represents the Lakers’ Anthony Davis, told The Athletic. “And I don’t think that’s who we are, who LeBron is. We have a great partnership with the Lakers. The Klutch Sports Group and the Lakers don’t have an issue. Rich Paul and Rob Pelinka don’t have an issue. LeBron James and Rob Pelinka don’t have an issue. And Jeanie Buss and LeBron and Rich Paul don’t have an issue. It’s very simple. Very simple. So, you know, whoever put that type of stuff out, and people run with it, I think it’s unfair to the Lakers.”
Dismissed as “just noise” by a member of the team’s senior management, the situation was serious enough so that James’ agent, Rich Paul, met with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka, sources confirmed to The Times. The meeting, which was first reported by ESPN, was to reiterate James’ commitment to the Lakers, who have him under contract for this season and next, and to clear up any perceived issues between the sides. “I don’t understand how some of my comments over the weekend were taken to a whole different area,” James said, claiming that his words were twisted.
After Pelinka resisted making any deals at the trade deadline, James' own public comments -- raising the possibility of a return to Cleveland and praising Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti -- started to fuel speculation that he could leave in free agency in 2023. Paul has privately downplayed that possibility, and told the Lakers that James is committed to playing his part in helping the Lakers to become championship contenders again, sources said.
If James wishes to finish out his contract and possibly his career with the Lakers, he has several options to maximize his earnings. For starters, he will become extension-eligible this offseason for up to two years, $97.1 million, which is the most he can get under the Over-38 rule. It would pay him $50.4 million in his age 40 season. He could also let his contract expire and re-sign with the Lakers in the 2023 offseason. A maximum contract for him then would be valued at $151.3 million over three years.
Last week, we looked at several high-profile players whose futures could be speculated on in next season’s transaction cycle. We briefly touched on James given his history of changing teams when his team’s window appears to be closing and are out of moves, or refuse to make them. We saw this story play out most recently in James’ most recent stint in Cleveland. If James were to hit the nuclear button and demand a trade in the 2022 offseason, he would in all likelihood get one. It’s possible he demands one if the Lakers cannot improve the team in his ever tighter window. It feels like L.A. will have to trade their last remaining assets for win-now players to put around James to keep him next year, even if they don’t believe the return significantly improves their title odds.
With each Los Angeles Lakers' mediocre performance this season, their playoff dreams are fading away slowly as they slip further in the standings. As a result, rumors have begun to circulate about a possible LeBron James exit in the near future. However, Shams Charania shut down all of that chatter as a guest on The Pat McAfee Show. LeBron is not leaving. On the show, Charania shared a message from James' agent, Rich Paul.
On the show, Charania shared a message from James’ agent, Rich Paul. “I spoke to LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and he said that talk [of James leaving] in itself is ridiculous and it’s totally false," Charania told McAfee. "LeBron James isn’t leaving the Lakers, he’s going to be on the Lakers. The question is: how can the Lakers get better? That’s why I’ve heard they have been active in the trade market.”
Pat McAfee: “I personally don't see a scenario where LeBron James is bolting from the Lakers to the Cavs.. from everything I've been told his plan is to be a Laker for the foreseeable future" ~ @ShamsCharania #PMSLive
The Los Angeles Lakers might have to trade for LeBron James this summer. James has rather clearly been offended by Lakers' management twice over the past two weeks. First when it elected not to make a deal before the Feb. 10 trade deadline after he had both publicly and privately prodded for something. More accurately, he expected it. And second when Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka stepped over the line when he announced James was on board with the status quo; a source told ESPN there was no prior sign-off from James.
Same as he was doing last week, in the wake of the trade deadline inaction, when he spoke about how his recent knee injury would likely bother him the rest of the season. The knee surely is an issue, but James was also laying the groundwork to give himself options depending on how the rest of the season plays out for the Lakers (27-31). What James is doing is likely aimed at one primary goal: Force the Lakers into major action this summer. He tried to do it nicely and now he's doing it harshly.
But it isn't free. Aug. 4 is the first day James can extend his contract again. The Lakers will surely offer one. And James will have some demands before he accepts. The Lakers have a flawed roster -- yes, James played a large role in putting it together but that doesn't mean he isn't ready to divorce it -- but they have options. If Russell Westbrook picks up his own player option, he will be on a $47 million expiring contract. After only being able to trade their 2027 first-round pick -- which the Lakers decided not to trade at the deadline, in part because they still owe two future firsts from the Anthony Davis deal -- rules will then allow the Lakers to trade their 2029 pick.
According to Oakley, one of the most important things that remain on LeBron’s checklist before he hangs it up would be to win another championship. Oakley isn’t completely confident that James will be able to achieve this with the Lakers and this is exactly why the 58-year-old believes that LeBron is going to part ways with the team sooner rather than later: “You know LeBron, his legacy right now is he definitely wants to win a championship before he retires,” Oaklay claimed on SiriusXM NBA Radio. “He might leave LA to get it. I don’t know if it will be Cleveland, could be somewhere else. He left twice. He’ll leave again.”
Pat McAfee: "I heard directly from Rich Paul that LeBron James isn't leaving the Lakers.. this team just doesn't look it has the young legs that they need to have & they have been very active in the trade market" @ShamsCharania
LA Times' Bill Plaschke came on with Jorge, A-Kam and Dave to talk more about the Lakers' woes and . Bill revealed that if the Lakers don't get a "big fish" in the next month, LeBron could "want out."
Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times on ESPN LA: "I’m hearing that, if they whiff on free agency, and if they whiff on a trade – which I don’t know how likely that is, but if that happens, they’ve got big trouble with LeBron. Why would LeBron – I mean, the LeBron era could be over before it starts here. I heard this for the first time yesterday. Somebody very connected said “You know what, if they whiff, LeBron’s going to say either, ‘I’m out of here’ or ‘Get me out of here,’ or the Lakers better just might as well just get him out of here."
The one thing Hart said he was fairly certain of was that no one on the roster was untouchable with the exception of two players: LeBron James, the team’s lone All-Star, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is represented by Klutch Sports, the same agency that represents James and Davis: “You’re going through it and you’re like ‘Alright, man.’ You had no idea. Like, really, it seemed like nobody was untouchable honestly, besides LeBron and KCP. That was the only untouchable pieces. Fortunately for me, my name wasn’t really thrown in there until the last day when basically everyone on the roster was allegedly getting traded. It was just a weird situation because you had no idea.”
It’s early in that process. Leonard’s shot just fell through the net. But one Western Conference executive brought up a name that could be a Simmons trade target: LeBron James. “I think they very well might explore that,” said a rival executive of Philadelphia. James doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but he shares the same Klutch Sports agent with Ben Simmons in Rich Paul. James has two seasons left on his deal before he can become a free agent.
Sagar Trika: Woj: LeBron James's decision won't be quick and will likely stretch into July. Implication here is that it can't be an opt-in-and-trade, as the player option deadline is June 29. Keep an eye on what he decides to do at the end of the month (a week from this upcoming Friday).
If Paul stays with the Rockets, Houston becomes the closest thing to a favorite on my scorecard, no matter how complicated it would be for the 65-win Rockets and their general manager, Daryl Morey, to orchestrate the requisite salary-cap gymnastics to bring James in. But don’t discount the idea that James could try to bring Paul with him to a team that can afford two superstars, such as the Lakers, because he and Paul really are that close.
The prevailing thought from outside the Cavaliers is that LeBron forces a trade rather than walking away. Much like his good friend Chris Paul, LeBron can choose to opt into his final contract year and push his way to a team with existing stars – like Houston. The fact that teams like the Lakers and even the Philadelphia 76ers could sign him outright in free agency gives him some leverage.
Chris Haynes: ESPN Sources: Cleveland never approached LeBron James about waiving his no-trade clause. The team committed to righting ship with hopes of retaining James.
Following yet another disheartening loss by the Cleveland Cavaliers, 116-98 to an Orlando Magic team tied for the worst record in the Eastern Conference, LeBron James said he will not waive his no-trade clause ahead of Thursday's 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. "I'm here for the long haul," James said. "I'm here for this season right now, [to] try to figure out ways we can still compete. I couldn't give up on my teammates like that. I couldn't do that. I just couldn't do it. We put too much into the game every single day. We go out and prepare. Win, lose or draw, at the end of the day, we're all brothers, and we understand that. I owe it to my teammates to finish this season out no matter how it ends up. I would never waive my no-trade clause."
LeBron James: "I'm here for this season right now, try to figure out ways we can still compete. I couldn't give up on my teammates like that. I couldn't do that. I just couldn't do it. I owe it to my teammates to finish this season out no matter how it ends up. I would never waive my no-trade clause."
There has been no indication publicly that Gilbert wants to trade James, and a team official said last month James was the one player the Cavs absolutely would not deal.
LeBron James will not waive the no-trade clause in his contract, a league source confirmed to the Beacon Journal Tuesday, and remains focused on winning now with the Cavaliers. With the NBA trade deadline looming on Thursday, teams have inquired about whether that was a possibility with James, according to a report by Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.
Cleveland has attempted to behave as a buyer at the trade deadline, but the first approach toward a possible rebuild would be to examine trading the team’s core players — a conversation the Cavaliers have yet to broach with James, and both sides understand his position to play the season out, league sources said. Over the past several days, teams around the league have openly wondered about whether Cleveland would look into James dropping his no-trade — which would clear the way for a potential pursuit. However, James remains solely focused on competing for a championship in Cleveland this season and evaluating his future after the season ends.
Shams Charania: Sources: As NBA teams do due diligence on his no-trade clause and potential of him dropping it, LeBron James is determined to see year through in Cleveland, focused on season and will not waive the clause.
LeBron James may or may not be “100 percent” certain to leave Cleveland after this season, but the Cavaliers are reportedly already preparing for life without the King. According to Kevin Durant, James has more than earned the right to dictate the terms of any possible departure. Durant was replying to a tweet Wednesday from rapper Lil Dicky, who said, “If I’m Cleveland, I’m one thousand percent trading LeBron.” James actually has a no-trade clause in his contract, which also gives him the ability to opt out in 2018, but the Warriors forward took the tweet at face value, saying that the Cavs “can’t trade a legend.” “He is Cleveland, he gets to hold the cards,” Durant added.
Durant then returned to his exchange with Lil Dicky, who had noted the acrimony between Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and James over the latter’s 2010 exit in free agency. “If I’m Gilbert, I’m getting something back this time,” the rapper said. “I feel what you’re saying,” Durant replied. “Most owners think that way, but then you realize it’s LeBron James.”
No matter the reconstruction of the Cleveland Cavaliers' roster, no matter the potential for heightened inner turmoil, no matter the win-loss record, and with or without Kyrie Irving, LeBron James will not waive his no-trade clause for any teams at any point during the 2017-18 season, league sources tell ESPN.
Sources are adamant that James is fully committed to leading the team with the personnel the organization imports to training camp in September. His primary focus is next season, an entire season with the Cavs in pursuit of another championship.
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.
Bobby Marks: On the LeBron James contract. James joins Melo, KG and Dirk as players with a no trade clause. 8 seasons and with current team 4 yrs to be eligible. James previous stint in Cleveland applies to a no trade clause.
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