There has been a ton of rhetoric surrounding the relationship between LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers front office in recent weeks.
And while the accuracy of said rhetoric is questionable, the fact of the matter is, that LeBron is entering the final year of his current contract, and if an extension isn’t agreed upon, he could hit unrestricted free agency next summer.
According to an Eastern Conference executive, who spoke to Heavy.com under the condition of anonymity, LeBron’s future in Los Angeles isn’t guaranteed, especially if the Lakers fail to improve on last year’s disappointing finish to the season.
“It is possible (that LeBron leaves the Lakers). Of course, it is. Who thought Kevin Durant was a flight risk two months ago? Things change and players are taking more and more power and no one has more power than LeBron—if he wants out, he will get out. They had the injuries last year and the year before, and pretty much every year that he has been there except the championship year.
That’s not the organization’s fault. And the personnel, he had a lot of say on that, you can’t put that all on the organization. But it has not been a completely happy marriage and he could be a free agent next summer, a lot of teams will have cap room. It’s not his first choice, leaving. But it is not off the table, it would seem,” The executive told Heavy.com’s, Sean Deveney.
Of course, a lot can happen in twelve months, and LeBron’s future with the Lakers could look far more secure, assuming they compete for a championship this season, or he gets his wish and the front office trades for Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets.
Trading Westbrook is The First Step to Keep LeBron
It’s clear that LeBron wants the Lakers to upgrade their current roster, and like it or not, the best way to do that is by parting ways with Russell Westbrook. That’s not to say the Lakers absolutely have to trade for Kyrie Irving, but given the cap constraints, the team finds themselves working with, facilitating Westbrook’s departure is their best route to improving their roster.
During a July 11 episode of ESPN’S Get Up, Brian Windhorst noted how the relationship between Westbrook and LeBron has continued to decline since the end of the season, with the star guard under no illusions that LeBron wants the Lakers to trade him away.
“A year ago, everything LeBron and Westbrook did, they were like arm-in-arm throughout the entire lead up to the season. So there’s no doubt about the erosion in their relationship here. We know that Westbrook, at the end of the season, spoke about LeBron and Anthony Davis paying lip service in letting him play his game. We also know that of course, LeBron wants the roster upgraded to include Kyrie Irving, and that means trading Westbrook,” Windhorst said.
LeBron Doesn’t Want to be Traded
Part of being the best player in the world for close to two decades is that you never have to worry about being included in trade talks unless you’ve specifically requested out of your current situation.
However, as LeBron continues to climb into the latter stages of his thirties, he may no longer be the untouchable entity that he once was, which is why there have been quiet whispers that he may be a trade candidate in a deal to bring Kevin Durant to Lakerland. Yet, according to Chris Broussard on a July 14 episode of ‘Undisputed,’ the Lakers will respect LeBron’s wishes to remain with the team, and won’t include him in any trade discussions.
“I think the Lakers respect him enough that they’ll do what he wants to do. If he doesn’t want to be traded, I don’t think they’ll trade him. Obviously, he wants to win a championship, but he’s not desperate to the point where he’s gonna uproot his family in a place where he’s happy to go somewhere where he doesn’t want to be,” Broussard said.
Still, there is a difference between not wanting to be traded, and making a decision on your future being away from your current team. But for now, LeBron is under contract and will remain with the Lakers, so let’s hope a successful season convinces him to re-sign for another year or two.