With LeBron James potentially becoming a free agent in 2023, there is plenty of speculation about the superstar’s future with the Los Angeles Lakers. During his conversations around the league, Heavy.com’s NBA insider Sean Deveney spoke with one Western Conference general manager who believes the rumors of James bolting the Lakers have been overblown.
The league executive had a strong reaction when asked if James could target a team like the Nets in free agency next offseason if it gave him the opportunity to team up with Kevin Durant. The front office person emphasized it is a “huge, huge long shot” that James will not end his career as a Lakers player.
“There is no sign that LeBron wants to leave L.A.,” the Western Conference GM explained. “That is just, it’s where all his business ventures are, it is where he wants to retire. It is a huge, huge long shot to think he will not be with the Lakers when his career ends. But, would he pass up a chance to go play with KD to finish his career?
“They are not great friends but they have a lot of respect for each other, they like each other, I think they recognize that they both raised their levels because of the other guy. So, if Brooklyn keeps its cap space open, depending on what happens with Kyrie (Irving, who has a player option), LeBron could have that option, go to Brooklyn and play there in 2023. But they could make it happen.”
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Windhorst: ‘LeBron Wants to Be a Laker’
James can officially put to rest the rumors about his future by signing a contract extension with the Lakers this offseason. James could also play out his current contract to simply put pressure on the Lakers front office to once again transform the current roster into a contender.
The superstar famously signed one-year deals with the Cavaliers to apply similar pressure on the Cleveland front office. The league executive’s strong take backs what ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported earlier this offseason regarding James’ desire to remain with the Lakers.
“But I think there’s two things I have to say that are very important here,” Windhorst noted during a May 5, 2022 episode of “First Take.” “The first is that LeBron wants to be a Laker. Regardless of what he may have said in moments of frustration last year and regardless of his concept of playing with his son or someday retiring a Cavalier or whatever. LeBron wants to be a Laker. He wants to live in Los Angeles. He loves living in Los Angeles, his son Bronny is a senior at Sierra Canyon in the Valley this year. He wants to be able to take part and enjoy his senior season. He still believes he can take the Lakers to heights. He wants to be a Laker.”
Could LeBron Recruit KD to the Lakers?
So, if James has no plans to leave Los Angeles, could the NBA legend somehow recruit Durant to the Lakers? Durant’s four-year, $194 million contract extension begins in 2022 and commits him to Brooklyn through the 2025-26 season. New York Daily News’ Kristian Winfield reported on May 24 that Durant has been giving the Nets’ front office the silent treatment since their underwhelming first-round playoff exit.
For the Lakers to have a chance at Durant, general manager Rob Pelinka would have to try to entice the Nets with Anthony Davis. The same NBA general manager admitted this idea is likely a long shot, especially given Davis’ status as a Klutch Sports client. The Lakers would also need for Durant to try to force his way out of Brooklyn, and there are no signs that the forward will do this despite being a bit prickly with Nets executives.
“Going the other way, if Durant wants to go to the Lakers, that gets harder,” the GM added. “He is signed through (2026) so you’ve got to make a trade and the only thing they can do would be Anthony Davis for KD. I think LeBron feels some responsibility for getting Davis to Los Angeles and he wants that to work, so there’s not much chance they would trade him. But if Davis can go play with Kyrie, who he is close with, maybe that changes the math on that. It’s an earthquake kind of trade and it’s a slim chance. But if Durant is really unhappy and they can get everyone on the same page, maybe it works for everyone. Never say never in this league.”