Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James is eligible for a two-year, $97 million extension on August 4. However, most of the Lakers’ offseason moves — the draft and free agency — will need to happen in June and July.
James could help the Lakers’ draft and free-agent decisions become easier by verbally committing to his extension before August. However, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, NBA execs don’t expect the four-time MVP to commit to the Lakers before the draft and free agency process.
“The Lakers are stuck without a commitment from James, whose contract expires after the 2022-23 season,” Pincus wrote. “Competing executives and agents do not expect the team to get clarity from James ahead of the draft and free agency. James could help make decisions easier if he verbally commits to an additional two seasons, timing his contract with Anthony Davis through 2024-25 (although Davis has an early termination option to leave one year sooner). Unpleasant salary is easier to digest in trade if the Lakers are reinvested in James with Davis. The last thing the team would want to do is eat up its 2023-24 cap space on players it doesn’t value with James leaving as an unrestricted free agent.
“The fear is similar in trading draft picks. If James were guaranteed to stick around another couple of seasons, L.A. might consider bigger moves like trading picks to get out of Westbrook for viable talent.”
James is set to make $44.5 million next season. He signed a four-year, $153.5 million deal with the Lakers in the summer of 2018 and agreed to a two-year, $85.7 million extension with Los Angeles in December 2020.
James Is Considering Playing out His Present Contract
Sam Amick of The Athletic reported in April that James is considering playing out his present contract. The four-time Finals MVP becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2023 under his current deal.
“Based on my conversations with people who have a strong sense of such things, it’s clear James is considering playing out this contract rather than signing a two-year extension this summer,” Amick reported. “If flexibility and freedom are the goals here, James (who is owed $44.4 million next season) could go back to the year-by-year approach he perfected in his second Cleveland stop.”
James is coming off a spectacular individual season in 2021-22. He averaged 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists while shooting 52.4% from the field, 35.9% from beyond the arc and 75.6% from the free-throw line. However, the Lakers won only 33 games and missed the playoffs.
James Is Excited to Play for His New Coach
James may not sign an extension with the Lakers this summer. However, he is excited to play for Darvin Ham.
“Oh wow. You know, just knowing him when he first came in the league and being able to play against him his first couple of years, you know, just the admiration and the respect I have for him, not only with what he does on the court but what he’s able to do off the court and just the magnitude of his impact with our youth and our culture,” Ham said about James. “His communication with me has been great, phenomenal. And to see him so excited, it really sent chills through me, man.
“It was a great, great moment. I wanna help him. I wanna help him maintain that level he’s playing at, at this stage of his career. We’re gonna do everything in our power for him, AD, Russ to all be healthy and to be defensive-minded and reset that standard, that championship defensive standard. It’s been great, man. Just talkin’ to him and exchanging ideas and sending him what, you know, little remnants of what our system is gonna look like going forward this season. It’s been awesome.
“His energy through the phone was unbelievable. We laughed. We got serious. We just went back and forth. We’re like-minded. You know, we’re both midwest kids. Akron, Ohio is not too different from Saginaw, Michigan. I’ll just tell you that right now. But we have that bond, that common midwest kid bond, and the type of player he is, he wants to uplift everyone around him. It’s not a, ‘me, me, me’ thing with him. It’s, ‘us’. It’s, ‘we.’ It’s, ‘ours.’ And we have to go about our business in that manner and again, re-establish that championship standard starting on the defensive end.”
Ham will be the fourth former player to coach James. LeBron has played for Paul Silas, Tyronn Lue and Luke Walton during his Hall of Fame career.