Given the Los Angeles Lakers‘ poor start to the new season, limited trade assets, and an aging roster, it would be fair of them to regret extending LeBron James’ contract this past summer.
According to a Western Conference executive, who spoke with Heavy on Sports’ Sean Deveney under the condition of anonymity, LeBron’s slight decline in terms of availability and explosiveness off his first step may be causes for the Lakers to feel slightly aggrieved at agreeing to pay the superstar forward for another two years.
“With the health stuff and the age and just the general little bit of burst that he has lost—just a little bit but it is there, it is one reason he is not getting the (foul) calls he thinks he should be getting — I am sure they would rather not have to give him $110 million over two years. But they gave Kobe (Bryant) a similar thing (in 2013) and one thing that Kobe and LeBron definitely have in common is, they were never going to take a discount. The attitude is always, pay me what I am worth and figure out the rest of your roster after I get mine. And it’s their right to do that, that is the way the rules are set up. But LeBron is not going to leave even a dollar on the table,” The executive said.
LeBron has missed four games so far this season, including Los Angeles’ last three contests, in which they’ve won two of them (50% of their wins for the season). However, when healthy, LeBron has been providing his team with 24.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game while shooting 45.7% from the field.
LeBron is Impacting Winning From the Sidelines
On November 13, the Lakers overcame a stern Brooklyn Nets team to snap their losing streak, and they did so without LeBron on the court. However, when speaking to the media following the contest, Patrick Beverley was quick to credit the leadership LeBron had shown during a practice session on November 12.
“We had a phenomenal practice, probably one of my best practices yesterday. You gotta give a lot of credit to LeBron. He started to get on guys the right way, and guys in the locker room responded. So, credit his leadership. Obviously, there are things that you guys don’t see in the locker room, but he was a big voice in practice yesterday, which kinda led over to our energy, and game planning, and focus for this game today,” Beverley said.
LeBron has operated at the highest level of basketball for his entire career, so it’s no surprise that his presence and voice can have a galvanizing effect on a locker room, but if he’s no longer the Lakers’ primary offensive weapon, or his demands are jeopardizing the future of the franchise, it would make sense for both parties to explore potential moves.
Darvin Ham Wants Anthony Davis to Spearhead Lakers
In LeBron’s absence, Anthony Davis has exploded back onto the scene, following two years of stagnation due to injury and a miscast role. Suddenly, Davis looks like the generational talent the Lakers traded for back in 2019, and is thriving as the team’s primary offensive option.
When speaking to the media on November 17, following Davis’ 38-point performance against the Detroit Pistons, head coach Darvin Ham discussed the leading role he expects Davis to command throughout the rest of the season.
“He’s been a big force for us all year, and tonight was no different…I think it’s extremely important (Davis remaining aggressive), I mean, just trying to sustain Bron when he comes back, being efficient with his minutes and efficient with his wear and tear. AD has to be the leading force, the leading charge, in terms of how we want to play inside-outside basketball, pressure on the rim, pressure in the paint constantly,” Ham said.
Read into Ham’s comments what you will, but given LeBron’s advancing years, it makes sense that the Lakers would begin to feature Davis more often, given that he’s long been seen as LeBron’s successor in purple and gold. Yet, given Davis’ recent performance, the executive might be right, the Lakers could be questioning their rationale for giving LeBron such a significant contract extension.