It was a pretty clear message from the Lakers. Sure, center/forward Anthony Davis has been injured for much of his time in L.A. since coming from the Pelicans in a 2019 blockbuster trade, but Davis has been stellar when he has not been injured. The Lakers bet on the stellar part of that equation rather than the “injured” aspect, when they handed Davis a record three-year, $186 million extension on Friday.
But the bigger question for the Lakers—and for the league as a whole—is what the extension could mean for star Lakers forward LeBron James and his future in Southern California.
Having Davis signed up through 2027-28, when he will be 34, is a strong indication to James that the Lakers want him around, too. James and his agency, Klutch Sports, which also reps Davis, is one of the major reasons Davis is in Los Angeles in the first place.
“Nothing happens in a vacuum in all this,” one Western Conference executive told Heavy Sports. “You can read all kinds of things into this, how fast it took place and all of that (Davis was first eligible to sign a deal with the Lakers on August 4, the day it happened). And there is a LeBron aspect to it. There always is.”
LeBron James Can Be a Free Agent Next Summer
James has never been one for long-term contracts, and that’s not changing at this stage of his career. He is entering the final year of his contract, which will pay him $47.6 million for next year. He does have a player option for 2024-25, at $51.4 million.
Most expect that James will stay put with the Lakers for however long he chooses to play in the NBA.
The two main threats to lure him away would be, first, retirement, especially if the league adds an expansion team, as expected, in the coming years and gives James a legitimate chance to be a team owner. And the second threat would be an opportunity to play with his son, Bronny, who is slated to play for USC but whose career is in question after suffering a cardiac arrest last month.
Keeping Davis in place and well-paid “paves the way,” for LeBron to finish his career as a Laker, the executive said:
“You sign AD to this deal, there is the Klutch connection there, and LeBron has a certain level of responsibility for what Davis does with the Lakers. So of course, there is communication there. If LeBron was going to leave, that would change the conversation.
“Now, AD can change his mind if LeBron leaves the Lakers down the road and ask for a trade—everyone’s doing that now, right?—but the message to LeBron is that hey want him there and AD signing that is a message, too. It paves the way for these two guys to stay together for the foreseeable.”
Injuries Marred the Davis-James Tenure With Lakers
The wisdom of keeping James and Davis together can be questioned. The pair helped the lakers to a championship in the 2020 Covid-19 bubble season in Orlando, but since then, there have been more downs than ups for L.A.
The Lakers were 42-30 in the 2020-21 season, but Davis missed 36 games, and James missed 27. With Davis hobbled in the postseason, the Lakers flopped in a six-game first-round loss to Phoenix.
L.A. was a miserable 33-49 two years ago, with James and Davis combining to miss 68 games. The Lakers did not earn a playoff spot that year.
There was a bounce-back last season, with Davis playing his best basketball since arriving in Los Angeles. He did miss 26 games, with James missing 27, but the pair was healthy during the playoffs and averaged 57.1 points, 25.0 rebounds and 9.1 assists combined. A better supporting cast, too, helped the Lakers reach the conference finals and raise hopes for this season.