Insider Details Potential Shift in Power for Lakers’ LeBron James, Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty Anthony Davis #3 and LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Fear is a great motivator, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ fear of agitating their star drove the franchise’s biggest offseason decision so far: firing Head Coach Darvin Ham. However, they didn’t make the move to appease LeBron James.

It was instead to placate Anthony Davis, who The Athletic’s Sam Amick says Davis is the “future of the Lakers” and may have dethroned James as the Lakers’ top priority.

That includes going into this offseason.

“I think we are guilty sometimes of … focusing too much on LeBron and not enough on AD,” Amick said on “The Rich Eisen Show” on May 17. “Like when they chose to fire Darvin Ham. I was told that one of the many many considerations was it was pretty evident that AD was not on board anymore with Darvin.

“They know like everybody else that AD has a history of having asked for trades in the past. That’s how he got to the Lakers from New Orleans. Last thing they wanted was for AD to be frustrated with the situation and maybe have those types of thoughts cross his mind.

“So that’s to me what’s unique about this offseason for the Lakers, is that even within Klutch you might have some different opinions about coach and players when it comes to LeBron and AD.

“One guy represents the future and the other guy, LeBron, is obviously near the end.”

James has regularly tried to hand the reins of the team over to Davis. And the big man turned in one of the best seasons of his career this past season. He was particularly durable, logging a career-high 76 appearances.

Davis received a historic, three-year, $186 million contract extension in August 2023. James can decline his $51.4 million player option and become a free agent this offseason.

The Lakers were also slightly more efficient with James on the floor without Davis than together.

Their net efficiency differential in the first scenario was plus-4.7 in 1,622 possessions. Together, they sported a plus-4.6 net differential in 3,615 possessions. And with Davis alone, that number plummeted to minus-0.2 in 2,027 possessions.

James attended the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Game 4 tilt against the Boston Celtics on May 13, stirring rumors about his future.

LeBron James Applying Pressure to Lakers

“I don’t know how to unpack it other than applying pressure to the Lakers when it comes to reminding them that, ‘Yes, our relationship is in a good place. Yes, it looks very likely that I’m returning to play for the purple and gold. But they and we have a coach’s decision to make here, we have trades to pursue,” Amick said.

“His free agency and the fact that he has not indicated publicly or privately what he’s going to do, showing up at the Cavs game is the easiest way to offer that reminder.”

James has entertained the idea of returning home for a third stint before.

“The door’s not closed on that,” James said, per The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd in February 2022. “I’m not saying I’m coming back and playing, I don’t know. I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t even know when I’m free.”

However, Amick describes James’ power move as an attempt to regain leverage rather than maintain it.

LeBron James, Klutch Sports Lost Power Within Lakers

“I think he [James] wants aggressiveness because that’s always his default,” Amick said. “Now, ever since the Russell Westbrook trade didn’t work, LeBron has lost juice in Laker Land. He just has. They have not listened to him as much, and it’s funny because the narrative and the idea that Klutch Sports runs the Lakers just couldn’t be farther from the truth. A lot of times most times they are told no.

“This is different because he has the leverage right now. They really, really, really want him back. They are all still all in on the LeBron business.”

With so much of their offseason plan still up in the air, this power struggle could last right up until the start of free agency if James decides to drag it out that long. How the Lakers respond is critical whether he stays or goes.