But off the court, LeBron is doing some more recruiting.
Chicago Bulls All-Star Zach LaVine became the latest player to join Klutch Sports Group, the agency founded by James’ agent and longtime friend Rich Paul. The timing is interesting as LaVine is in the final year of his contract before potentially becoming an unrestricted free agent.
LaVine’s switch to Klutch might not have many immediate implications, but it could indicate a future team-up with James and the Lakers.
Zach LaVine became a superstar last season for the Chicago Bulls
Four years after being the primary return piece in the Jimmy Butler trade, LaVine became the superstar the Bulls needed.
In each of the last three seasons, Lavine has averaged 23 or more points per game, including a career-high 27.4 last season. He also set career bests with a 50.7 field-goal percentage, 41.9 3-point percentage, and 84.9 free-throw percentage in 2020-21.
As a result of his breakout season, LaVine was honored with his first All-Star appearance (h/t Bulls.com):
“I think the recognition is the main thing that you want; the game is the fun part. Go out there and play with the best in the league. That’s all there is. Once you reach this, you’re of a certain stature. You want to uphold it. Guys have always, obviously, come after you each and every day. But with a certain reputation now you’ve got to uphold that. You have a target on your back, essentially. I’ve always played that way. Especially over the last couple of years, I thought I played at an All-Star level. Now you’ve just got to continue to go out there and show it.”Zach LaVine
The accolades continued beyond the NBA season for LaVine. The 26-year-old was a member of the United States men’s national basketball team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He averaged 9.7 points in just under 19 minutes per game, helping the U.S. capture the gold medal.
LaVine has said he would want to play with LeBron James
LaVine had expressed interest in teaming up with James even before the two played together in an All-Star game and shared an agency.
During the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago, LaVine was asked on ESPN’s First Take which player he would most like to play with.
“There’s a lot of dudes out there I’d love to play with, but is it going to be realistic?” LaVine answered. “Everybody wants to play with the best players in the world, you know. I would love to go out there and play with a dude like LeBron James, but you’re not going to get those types of opportunities, I don’t think.”
In addition to having an interest in playing with James, LaVine is also familiar with Los Angeles. The shooting guard attended UCLA for one season before the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft.
LeBron could be recruiting LaVine for next summer
LaVine’s move to Klutch brings up memories of Davis.
AD, then with the New Orleans Pelicans, signed with the agency about nine months before facilitating a trade to the Lakers. Klutch is also home to current Laker Talen Horton-Tucker, as well as former Lakers Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell.
For now, LaVine and the Bulls are committed to one another.
“Obviously, I want to be with the Bulls and you don’t want to implicate, you know, free agency, and I understand, like the cap room that goes into it with a sizable extension with me. So, I want the team to be good, but then I also want to be taken care of as well. I feel like I’ve done really well by the Bulls, and obviously I want to be here long-term, and I feel like I deserve what I get,” LaVine told NBC Sports Chicago earlier this summer. “We’ll figure (it) out when that comes. If it’s this year, next year, we’ll just see what happens.”
The Bulls made a strong effort to build a winning team around LaVine in the last few months. Chicago acquired Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan this summer, as well as Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline. LaVine and the Bulls haven’t appeared in the playoffs for four straight years.
The Lakers could see LaVine as an athletic shooting guard to put alongside James and Davis next summer. His 3-point shooting would also be a huge boost for a team desperate to add shooters. But a LaVine signing would imply Westbrook, who has a player option for $47 million in 2022-23, opts out or is traded by LA after the season.
The power of LeBron, especially as a recruiter, can’t be underestimated. And now, there is more than enough evidence to show he and LaVine have a mutual interest in teaming up.