As much as the Los Angeles Lakers want to lean on optimism, the franchise can no longer ignore questions concerning the future. The big elephant in the room has become LeBron James‘ contract situation as he’s headed toward free agency in the summer of 2023.
In the days leading up to the 2022 All-Star game, James put more gas to the flame by airing uncertainty regarding where he will play beyond next season. He also definitively laid out what could pull him away from finishing his NBA career with the Lakers.
LeBron James hints that he could return to the Cavaliers
With the 2022 NBA All-Star game in Cleveland, the conversation predictably headed toward another possible reunion.
James further fueled the dialogue, voicing that he wouldn’t rule out going back to the Cavaliers if that became feasible.
“The door’s not closed on that,” James told The Athletic. “I’m not saying I’m coming back and playing, I don’t know. I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t even know when I’m free.”
Although the 37-year-old toyed with the idea, he made sure to point out that he holds an unknown future ahead. The only certainty is that he’s under contract through the 2022-23 season, and beyond that, his NBA path is wide open.
James is quite aware of the gravity his words hold regardless of the subject matter. Those parameters alone should draw the attention of every franchise after his remarks regarding playing with his son.
LeBron James reveals his son Bronny James could lure him away from the Lakers
After indicating a third Cavaliers’ stint is possible, LeBron James stirred the pot even more concerning his Lakers’ future.
With Bronny James moving through his high school basketball career, the chatter has grown louder regarding the 37-year-old’s desire to play alongside his son. The 18-time All-Star has now finally confirmed that notion.
“My last year will be played with my son,” James said. “Wherever Bronny is at, that’s where I’ll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.”
Bronny is in his sophomore year, placing ahead the trajectory to be eligible for the 2024 NBA Draft. LeBron will need to get through his 21st season, which he has shown no slowing down in his 19th campaign.
James’ words may hold the pure intention of teaming up with his son, but it provides every franchise the blueprint to land the future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Whatever organization lands Bronny will have the elder James for at least one season, but it comes with a caveat.
The 37-year-old indicated that he wouldn’t play for a discounted price, requiring that franchise to make room for a max salary slot. If James is still playing at a high level, that financial sacrifice will be worth the risk.
Beyond that, James’ remarks put the Lakers on the clock to figure it out quickly or lose the special opportunity to have the star forward finish his illustrious career in Los Angeles.
Lakers need to reconstruct the roster again to keep LeBron James
LeBron James may be throwing out possible scenarios, but that should garner the Lakers’ full attention.
If that doesn’t draw any concern from general manager Rob Pelinka, something is extremely wrong. James is in the backend of his career but is still performing at an elite level.
All that makes to reconstructing the roster priority No. 1 next offseason. Los Angeles needs to find a way to move off Russell Westbrook next while building a balanced roster around their star power. The decision to acquire Westbrook financially limited the franchise from adding the right pieces instead of relying on players taking pay cuts.
Malik Monk and Carmelo Anthony have proven to be bargain deals, but the other offseason additions have struggled. DeAndre Jordan and Kent Bazemore have fallen out of the rotation, while Trevor Ariza and Wayne Ellington haven’t provided consistent impact.
Meanwhile, Kendrick Nunn has yet to play a single regular-season game after suffering a bone bruise in the preseason. Ultimately, The Lakers can ill-afford to go through another disastrous year, or James will be gone in the summer of 2023.