NBA Rumor: LeBron James Free Agency

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Brian Windhorst: 'LeBron James and Jeanie Buss are in a good place right now'

The Lakers just had one of the worst seasons in the history of the franchise. It was so disappointing that that the future of LeBron James in Los Angeles has been questioned. At least for now it seems that the four-time NBA champion views the team in a positive light and believes that it can still be very competitive next year. “From what I understand, LeBron and Jeanie are in a good place right now that despite the frustrations of this season LeBron believes that a few tweaks and some health can actually turn this thing around, and they can be super competitive,” Windhorst said on Get Up. “He is invested, wants to be there.”

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Brian Windhorst: LeBron James would also love to play with Luka Doncic

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.”

LeBron James says he wants to play with Stephen Curry

This line of thinking makes James’ comments in an upcoming episode of “The Shop” fertile ground for speculation and rumormongering. When asked who he would most like to play with in the NBA, James’ first answer was his son, Bronny James, currently a junior in high school. When asked about which current NBA player he’d like to team up with, however, the elder James got the Twitter wheels turning. “In today’s game, sh– there’s some m—–f—— in today’s game, but Steph Curry,” James said. “Steph Curry’s the one that I wanna play with for sure, in today’s game. … I love everything about that guy. Lethal. When he get out his car, you better guard him right from the moment he pulls up to the arena. … You might wanna guard him when he get out of the bed. Swear to god. He’s serious.”

Stephen Curry on LeBron James' comments: 'I'm good right now'

Curry responded to James’ comments from “The Shop” on Wednesday. “Well he got his wish. He was the captain and he’s picked me for the last two All-Star Games. So I don’t know if that suffices, but I’m good right now,” Curry said on 95.7 The Game. “Whenever you get the interest or curiosity of what it would be like to play with arguably the MVP kinda caliber dude like he is, one of the greatest of all-time, cool. That’s amazing. We all can live in that fantasy world.”

Kevin Love doesn't 'get a feel' that LeBron James is interested in return to Cavaliers, but 'it could change'

Is Kevin Love getting any hints on that ’16 text chain that LeBron James is interested in a return to Cleveland? “After 2018, did [I] know he was going to the Lakers? I was like, eh, had some sort of an idea that it was a possibility, like a strong possibility I should say, but no, I don’t see any,” says Love. “He obviously loves our makeup. He loves our team, he has a special bond with Akron, the city of Cleveland, Ohio. But no, I don’t really get a feel for that as of right now. But you know, with him, it could change.”

Kevin Love: It'd be great to get LeBron James and Bronny on the Cavaliers

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.

LeBron James would never move to the Clippers?

Could James use the Clippers as leverage to get the Lakers to be aggressive in making moves this summer? During a March 7 episode of “The Lowe Post” podcast, ESPN’s Zach Lowe and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons discussed potential options for the Lakers to improve their roster. Lowe noted that James going to the Clippers would be a “hard no” from the Lakers star. “I actually have floated this to some people who might know, would LeBron ever go to the Clippers?” Lowe pondered. “And the answer was, ‘hard no, hard no.’”

LeBron James Jr. wouldn't be a one-and-done player if not for his dad?

There is one aspect of the recent LeBron James/Lakers saga in zero dispute: He continues to openly dream of playing alongside son Bronny in the NBA… He won’t be eligible for the NBA until the 2024 draft and, based on my own checking with various teams, Bronny wouldn’t be a draft candidate that quickly — based on where he is as a player today — without the nudge he’s getting from Dad, who will turn 40 during the 2024-25 season. As one Eastern Conference personnel voice tried to gently put it: “I don’t think he’d be a one-and-done player if he wasn’t LeBron’s son.”

Rich Paul meets with Lakers brass, says LeBron James is committed to Lakers

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.

Of course, James’s desired end game is unlikely to be in New York, or Cleveland, or Oklahoma City. He can extend his deal on August 4, and might do so for a “1+1” that has a player option in 2024 … the better to put maximum pressure on the Lakers the next two years, and also to set himself up to play with his son Bronny in 2024 if that should come to pass. (James could technically do this in 2023 if he was willing to play for G League Ignite, but I suspect that wasn’t the situation he was thinking aloud about).

“I think Koby and those guys have done an unbelievable job drafting and making trades,” James said. “I think big fella (Allen), that acquisition was amazing for them to make that trade. Obviously Darius Garland is a big-time player. And I think the role that Kevin (Love) is playing right now has kind of uplifted those young guys, seeing a veteran that could sacrifice, a champion that’s won a championship, all the things that he’s done, to come off the bench and play this role. I am not surprised by anything that they’re doing right now.”

LeBron James would leave Lakers to play with son Bronny?

But after June of 2023 has come and gone (and James’ current contract with the Lakers will have expired), there could be a new destination on James’ landscape … provided he has not already switched teams prior to that in order to increase his chances of winning another title. “LeBron likes L.A., he likes raising his family in L.A., and his post-career businesses are in L.A.,” ESPN journalist Brian Windhorst told me. “But he’s made it very clear that he wants to play with his son. If that situation is available outside L.A., he’ll pursue it.”

Charles Oakley: LeBron James will leave again

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 Riley would welcome back LeBron James with open arms

By comparison, Riley’s transgressions appear relatively minor. So could James and the Heat reunite? Riley said Friday in an interview on Dan Le Batard’s radio show that he would be open to the possibility if James was (h/t Peter Botte of the New York Post). “I would leave the key under the doormat if he would call me and let me know that he’s coming,” Riley said. “I would do that, but I doubt very much that key…That key is rusted now. “LeBron, look, he’s one of the greatest of all time, and for four years down here, if we want to go back and remember what those four years were like, it was four years in the Finals, four years of excitement, two world championships…It was the best time for the Heat. So I wish him nothing but the best, and if he ever wanted to come back, I’ll put a new shiny key under the mat.”

James was leaning toward L.A. for days, and according to those outside his direct orbit, for months. But Paul rejects the commonly held explanations that James was driven either to expand his Hollywood empire or spark an overnight superteam. In the hours after his commitment, the Lakers reached agreements with guard Lance Stephenson and center JaVale McGee—not exactly Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Any hope of the Lakers building an instant rebuttal to the Warriors was dashed.

“Today is a great day for the Lakers organization and Lakers fans all over the world to welcome LeBron James, a three-time NBA Champion and four-time NBA MVP,” said Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “LeBron is special. He is the best player in the world. He loves to compete and is an awesome leader who is about winning and making sure that his teammates are successful. The Lakers players are excited to have a teammate who has been to nine NBA Finals. It’s a huge step closer to returning the Lakers to the playoffs and to the NBA Finals.”

“This is a historic moment for the Lakers, and we could not feel more grateful and honored,” Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka said. “When LeBron James – a perennial NBA MVP and champion who is playing at the most astonishing levels of his career – chooses to join the Lakers, it serves as the ultimate validation for what we are building here. However, we all know that the work is not yet done. We will continue forward and do all that is necessary to achieve our shared obsession of bringing banner No. 17 to the world’s best fans – Lakers Nation.”

James clearly trusts Jeanie Buss, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka more than he ever trusted Gilbert. The four-year, $154 million deal he agreed to Sunday includes three guaranteed years. The fourth year is a player option, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. The last time he gave Cleveland a three-year commitment was 12 years ago when he was coming off his rookie deal. He even gave the Miami Heat and Pat Riley four years guaranteed in 2010. Despite his willingness to spend, James never trusted Gilbert enough to give the Cavs the same lengthy commitment.
4 years ago via ESPN

Preorders for new Lakers LeBron James jerseys were robust enough on Sunday night to give retailer Fanatics one of its top 10 sales days in terms of NBA gear sold, a spokesman for the company told ESPN. Jerseys, with the placeholder of No. 00, went up on the site of the world’s largest seller of licensed sports jerseys at around 8:45 p.m. ET on Sunday night, roughly 40 minutes after the news broke. James will wear No. 23, the same number he wore in both of his Cleveland stops, league sources have told ESPN.

On Sunday morning, James ate breakfast with his wife on the patio at A Votre Sante in Brentwood. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic candidate for governor of California, stopped at their table and asked where he was headed. James kept quiet. Maria Shriver, the former First Lady of California, also swung by and delivered her case for the Lakers. There is little doubt the club’s cache played as much a part in James’s thinking as Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. James grew up a Cowboys and a Yankees fan, but he has never suited up for an iconic institution. Even though the Rockets and Sixers are loaded in comparison to the Lakers, they did not capture the imagination in the same way.

On Sunday afternoon, James and his wife went back to Van Nuys Airport. They were flying east again, this time to Europe, for a couple’s trip. His advisors didn’t know if he’d pick a team before he left for Europe or after he landed, or even after he returned. They prepared an old-fashioned press release under the letterhead of Paul’s agency, Klutch Sports Group, but they weren’t sure if or when they’d distribute it. James phoned Paul as he was boarding the private plane. “Call the Lakers,” he said.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss deserves the assist for getting this done, as she’s the one who made the bold move in Feb. 2017 of firing her own brother, Jim Buss, and longtime general manager, Mitch Kupchak, after years of failed free agency pitches. Magic Johnson came in as an adviser and then president of basketball operations, and Rob Pelinka, the longtime agent of Kobe Bryant, became general manager. The overhaul was complete, with Buss pushing for more synergy between the front office and ownership with the hopes that it would lead to this kind of prize. But according to a person with knowledge of James’ thinking, it was Johnson who closed this monumental deal. The Lakers legend met with James in one of his Los Angeles homes for approximately three hours on Saturday night, when the NBA’s free agency period tipped off.

Dan Gilbert: Virtually anyone with roots in Northeast Ohio paused and felt the memories of the past and the utter joy that the burden of the so-called ‘curse’ was finally a thing of the past. Cleveland, Ohio was the home of a championship team for the first time since 1964. Words do not express the meaning and the feeling this accomplishment brought to the people of Northeast Ohio. None of this would have happened if LeBron James did not agree to come back home and lead the Cavaliers to the promised land. The entire Cavaliers franchise thanks LeBron for that precious moment and for all of the excitement he delivered as he led our team to four straight NBA Finals appearances.

Dan Gilbert: LeBron is a family man, first. We wish his kids, his wife Savannah, his mother Gloria, and LeBron himself nothing but the best in the years and decades ahead. LeBron’s connection to Akron, Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio will most certainly endure as his commitment to the region and his support of many important causes has been impactful to so many kids and families. LeBron, you came home and delivered the ultimate goal. Nothing but appreciation and gratitude for everything you put into every moment you spent in a Cavaliers uniform. We look forward to the retirement of the famous #23 Cavs jersey one day down the line…”

Here are three reasons why LeBron James joined the Lakers, according to two people with knowledge of the negotiations. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because of the high-profile nature of the deal. 1. James and his family (wife Savannah, sons LeBron Jr. and Bryce and daughter Zhuri) are excited to live in Los Angeles fulltime. He has two homes there and has spent previous offseasons there. 2. James believes the Lakers are in position – with some of the players they have now – to build a team that can contend for a championship soon. Also, James was not adamant that another All-Star, such as Kawhi Leonard or Paul George, had to join the Lakers for him to sign with the Lakers. He understands they can build and create a contender with him there.
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