LeBron James’ All-Star Comments Were a ‘Negotiating’ Tactic: Insider

Lakers superstar LeBron James runs the court

Getty LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Western Conference All-Stars reacts in the second quarter against the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst believes Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James is already negotiating for his next contract when he commented about his future during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis.

“First off, just you have to understand LeBron is negotiating. He’s negotiating for potentially his last contract,” Windhorst said on “SportsCenter” on February 19. “He doesn’t want to leave the Lakers. He certainly doesn’t want to walk away from the $50 million they can pay him next year and quite frankly if he opts out of his contract in June, he could sign for three years in excess of $150 million and it might take a little negotiation to get there and so that’s part of it.”

Before James played his 20th NBA All-Star Game, he was asked about having a farewell tour and used that opportunity to show appreciation to the Lakers but also left the door open for a potential move to another team in the wake of the Golden State Warriors’ serious trade interest.

“I am a Laker and I’m happy, and been very happy being a Laker the last six years,” James told reporters. “Hopefully, it stays that way. But I don’t have the answer to how long it is or which uniform I’ll be in. Hopefully, it is with the Lakers. It’s a great organization and so many greats. But we’ll see. I don’t know how it’s going to end, but it’s coming it’s coming for sure.”

Warriors as Emergency Exit Plan?

Despite turning 39 this year, James is still one of the league’s best players. He’s averaging 24.8 points, 7.8 assists, and 7.2 rebounds, numbers that are unheard of for a player in his 21st season.

If the Lakers play hardball this summer, James can always have the Warriors as his backup plan.

“The other thing is I don’t think that he hasn’t closed the door on potentially going somewhere else as part of that negotiation strategy,” Windhorst said. “I do think the discussions that took place between the Lakers and Warriors should be remembered and are relevant. I don’t think that’s the direction he’s going to go but let’s see how this season ends for both of those teams and I’m not going to close any doors because he’s not either.”

Aside from the Warriors, there will be plenty of teams who would still be competing for James’ services despite him entering the twilight of his career.

The Philadelphia 76ers are the other team who called the Lakers before the trade deadline, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

LeBron James Says He Was Unaware of Warriors’ Trade Interest

James claimed he was unaware of the Lakers-Warriors trade talks until ESPN reported it.

“It [the trade talks] didn’t go far at all,” James said on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” broadcast before the 2024 NBA All-Star Game on February 18. “I actually heard about it when everybody else heard about it.

“Obviously, you know, Charles [Barkley] has been in the league, Kenny [Smith] has been in the league, Shaq has been in the league… and sometimes, there are conversations that happen behind closed doors that you don’t even know about and until I guess if it’s real or not then they’ll bring it to you. But it never even got to me so I heard it when the reports dropped as well.”

Ultimately, the talks did not advance past the exploratory stage as James’ agent Rich Paul, according to the ESPN report, “told [Joe] Lacob and Warriors GM Mike Dunleavy Jr., that James had no interest in a trade and wanted to remain a Laker.”