Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James made a surprising appearance at the NBA Finals likely to cheer on his good friend Chris Paul. It is not often we see a player from an opposing team sitting courtside after being eliminated, especially to watch the team that beat your squad earlier in the postseason. James is clearly not holding the Lakers’ first-round loss against his good friend.
It also does not hurt that James’ surprise courtside appearance coincides with the release of Space Jam: A New Legacy. Paul faces a difficult decision this offseason as the Suns guard has the opportunity to exercise his player option to become a free agent. The Suns point guard is slated to make $44.2 million next season during the final year of his current deal, but there has been growing buzz that Paul could opt out in search of a longer contract in free agency.
During an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Arsenio Hall asked James if he would like to play with Paul before his career ends. Hall interrupted his own question admitting it could lead towards a tampering charge by the NBA. James smiled before noting he would “absolutely” like to team up with Paul. Hall brought up the topic by asking about Paul almost landing with the Lakers in 2011 prior to the proposed trade being vetoed by the NBA.
“They like vetoed the trade,” James explained. “I’ve never seen that in NBA history. I was excited as heck for CP. I thought the Lakers faithful was excited to get him then they just, they vetoed it. It’s working out for him [Paul] right now, I tell you, years later. It’s working out for him.”
LeBron on Rooting Interest in the Finals: ‘I Have a Horse in the Race & He Goes by the Name of Chris Paul’
James was asked if was watching the NBA Finals after the Lakers disappointing early exit. The All-Star cited Paul as the reason he is still locked in to playoff basketball.
“I am, I have a horse in the race and he goes by the name of Chris Paul,” James answered. “That is my brother, and we’ve known each other since my junior year in high school, his sophomore year. We actually met for the first time when we were in eighth grade. We played in the same AAU national basketball tournament in Orlando, Florida, and then we officially met my junior year, his sophomore year. I mean, we’ve been friends ever since.”
James bond with Paul goes beyond the basketball court as the two families are connected. Paul is the godfather of James and his wife Savannah James’ second child Bryce Maximus James.
“Yeah, he was at the hospital for the birth of my second child, my second son Bryce Maximus, and it happened to be during the NBA Finals then,” James added. “So, he’s the godfather of Bryce, and Bryce came out the night before and then I went on to proceed to get my a** kicked by the Spurs the next day. So, there was no sleep for me then.”
Could the Lakers Make a Run at CP3?
Even if Paul opts out of his deal, the Lakers face an uphill battle to have a legitimate chance to add the guard. With no cap space, the Lakers only path to landing Paul is via a sign-and-trade. This is a complicated scenario as the Suns are unlikely going to want to help another Western Conference contender sign one of their best players.
Sign-and-trade deals have become more commonplace in the NBA giving players more power than ever to pick their destination rather than be limited to teams with cap space. The Lakers would likely need Paul to force his way to Los Angeles to have any chance at pairing him with James and Anthony Davis.
The Lakers current starting point guard Dennis Schroder will be a free agent after the team failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension during the season. SNY.TV’s Ian Begley reported Paul is widely expected to become a free agent in August, and the Knicks would be a potential landing spot if the Suns are unable to re-sign the veteran.
“The Knicks were one of the teams interested in trading for Paul last summer,” Begley explained. “They probably could have matched the package that Phoenix sent to Oklahoma City in exchange for Paul. But Paul reportedly had a heavy influence in where OKC sent him, and he ended up in Phoenix. Did Paul choose Phoenix over the Knicks? Matt Barnes said the pandemic influenced Paul’s decision to go to the Suns instead of seeking a trade to the Knicks.
“As you’d expect, Paul’s name has come up internally as one of the players the Knicks could target at point guard this summer. And if Paul and Phoenix can’t reach an agreement, the Knicks certainly will have the cap space to make him a multi-year offer. Several agents for point guards in the 2021 free agent class fear New York as a possible landing spot for Paul. Leon Rose was Paul’s agent before Rose became the Knicks president. But, again, New York would only be an option for Paul if he and Phoenix didn’t reach an agreement.”