Storyline: LeBron James to Lakers?

76 rumors in this storyline

Several possible factors in LeBron’s decision-making process have been raised by league sources: a place to raise his family; a place where he will have the best shot at winning more championships; a place where he can begin setting up his post-playing career and dip into the world of entertainment and team ownership. The Lakers, more than any other team in the league, sit at the nexus of all the reasons LeBron would want to join a franchise.

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But Lopez may well have walked into the most exciting period for the team he was traded to, the LA Lakers, since the showtime era which starred Magic Johnson, if the efforts of the owners to get superstar LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Paul George to the Lakers materialise. “It’s a very exciting possibility,” said Lopez, adding: “Obviously they are two supremely talented players and they have both changed the face of the teams and it is definitely going to be an interesting off season when it happens.”

I will continue to trumpet the belief that James would be making a huge mistake to leave the Eastern Conference that he has dominated for years by joining the Houston Rockets or Los Angeles Lakers and potentially complicating his annual path to the championship round. But the Cavaliers suddenly look so rickety again that I now fully understand why whispers about the Philadelphia 76ers and their growing behind-the-scenes confidence that they can woo LeBron to Philly this summer are getting louder.

Walton’s improvement and maturation as a coach throughout the season has seemingly flown under the radar, however, as he has made significant strides in the handling of his players. Channing Frye has witnessed this first hand since being traded. He was asked whether James would want to play for Walton and eventually opened up after some initial trepidation. “Am I allowed to talk about that?” Frye asked aloud before continuing. “I’m going to say this, I think any superstar would like to play for Luke. I think he’s a players’ coach. I think when you talk about the continuity with the president, owner, GM, a lot of guys are looking for that.

Indeed, as he has shown in trying to carry a chemistry- and health-challenged Cavs team to a fourth straight Finals appearance, LeBron James is a franchise-changer, but is he the right target for this Lakers franchise? “I don’t think he’s the best fit with Lonzo [Ball],” one Eastern Conference executive said. “I think James would stunt his growth. Ball is talented enough to play off the ball and make it work, but he’s best with the ball in his hands. With him wanting to secure his first payday, I don’t think he’ll be too happy deferring to James. You know his pop won’t.”

Even if the Lakers bring in Paul George along with James, can a group of players barely old enough to legally order alcohol, without one game of NBA postseason experience, give enough support to win 16 contests through June? None of the answers is easy, and while the obvious play would be to try for James, the Lakers need to seriously consider how long LeBron James will be LeBron James. “He has two or three years left at an elite level,” an NBA agent said, a sentiment echoed by the Western Conference executive. The executive from the East, however, didn’t agree: “He’ll be LBJ for however long he wants. He’s a freak. I’m confident he can dominate for another five to six years.”

But it goes beyond that. Clarkson said when he was a player for the Lakers, his teammates used to talk about James coming there as a free agent, which he could be free to do this summer if he opts out of his contract with the Cavs. “I wouldn’t say like management and the coaches or nobody, but in the locker room people talk when they see what’s going on,” Clarkson said, after the Cavs beat the Denver Nuggets 113-108. “That’s probably the only thing, people talk in the locker room.”
3 months ago via ESPN

Emrani says he has paid to put up four billboards around Los Angeles trying to recruit James to join the Lakers in free agency in response to previous billboards erected in Cleveland and Pennsylvania trying to convince James to join the Sixers and remain with the Cavaliers, respectively. As the Cavaliers make their only trip of the regular season to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Friday and the Lakers on Sunday, Emrani wants James to know he’s wanted in purple and gold. The Lakers have the ability to create as much as $70 million in cap space to pursue two max free agent stars like James and Oklahoma City’s Paul George this summer.

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.

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.

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?”
4 months ago via ESPN

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.”

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.
5 months ago via ESPN

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.”
5 months ago via ESPN

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.

LeBron James' agent talks free agency

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.

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.”

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.

LeBron James to Lakers next summer?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.’”

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.”

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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