Los Angeles Lakers superstar small forward LeBron James becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2023. After the four-time MVP told Jason Lloyd of The Athletic during All-Star weekend he hasn’t closed the door on playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers again and that his last season in the NBA will be played with his son — Bronny — fans and pundits began to speculate that LeBron could leave the Lakers in 2023.
Los Angeles vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka didn’t make any trades at the trade deadline despite the purple and gold being in ninth place in the Western Conference standings. According to Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin of ESPN, that didn’t sit well with LeBron, who was expecting Pelinka to make some deals.
“A source familiar with the situation told ESPN that there was no prior sign-off from James and Davis accepting a quiet deadline,” McMenamin reported. “In fact, in the days leading up to the deadline, sources told ESPN there was a realization within the Lakers locker room that the roster was not working and changes would be necessary to turn the team into a contender.”
Barring a miracle, the Lakers won’t win the championship this season, which means there will be even more noise this offseason about LeBron potentially leaving Los Angeles in 2023. However, one insider who has been covering the Lakers for over a decade believes the King “doesn’t want to leave LA.”
ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne: LeBron ‘Doesn’t Want to Leave LA’
During an appearance on the Mason & Ireland Show on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said she believes there’s a 90% chance LeBron will be on the Lakers after the 2022-23 season.
“He doesn’t want to leave LA,” Shelburne said. “He came here for a reason. This is a real reaction from someone I asked this weekend: ‘Hey, that Cleveland talk was interesting.’ This is a person who would know: ‘Well, what did you expect LeBron to say? No, I’m never coming back here?’ This is his hometown. He won a championship here. He has a house there. His high school friends are there. I think it was nostalgia.
“Does he wanna relocate again? He likes living in LA. He likes it here. Now, if the team is horrible, OK, but I don’t think they’re gonna be horrible. I think they’re gonna reboot over the summer. They’re gonna have LeBron and AD (Anthony Davis) again, which is always a good combination.”
LeBron’s two sons, Bronny and Bryce, play high school basketball at Sierra Canyon, which is in Chatsworth, Los Angeles. Bronny won’t be draft-eligible until the 2024 NBA Draft. He will have to play one year of college basketball before entering the NBA unless the league allows kids to come to the pros straight out of high school again.
It’s going to be fascinating to track LeBron’s future with the Lakers. The Akron Hammer already delivered on his promise to turn the franchise around by winning the 2020 championship. Once Bronny and Bryce graduate high school, LeBron may not be inclined to stay in Los Angeles.
Pelinka will certainly be under major pressure to fix the roster this offseason, something LBJ is looking forward to seeing. This summer could determine LeBron’s future with the Lakers.
LeBron Wants to See What Pelinka Is Going to Do
According to Windhorst, LeBron’s “primary goal” is to “force the Lakers into major action” this summer by overhauling the roster. That most likely means trying to trade Russell Westbrook, who led the NBA in turnovers during the first half of the season.
Westbrook was acquired at the direction of LeBron and Anthony Davis, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. The UCLA product has proven to be a poor fit in Los Angeles since he can’t shoot the ball. Westbrook is shooting only 29.9% from beyond the arc.
LeBron and Davis deserve blame for urging Pelinka to trade for Westbrook instead of Buddy Hield. It will be interesting to see what happens this summer and if Pelinka listens to his two stars again.