LeBron James recently made headlines for talking about all the reasons players might enjoy playing alongside Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, but it would appear anyone projecting that he was counting himself among those hypothetical players was jumping the gun.
There has been tons of speculation about James joining the Lakers since last season, when rumors started to trickle out that he might want to give his career a Hollywood ending in more ways than one. And doing things like showing up to one of Ball’s Summer League games and praising him in the media only did more to fuel that fire.
However, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne, James singing with the Lakers during 2018 NBA free agency is not considered a likely scenario at present time:
Lakers history is filled with similar feats of engineering, most recently in 2008, when they plucked Pau Gasol away from Memphis to team with an in-his-prime Bryant for two NBA championships.
So imagining James’ last act coming in purple and gold isn’t without basis. But as of now, it’s also a longshot, according to league sources. Still, expect the atmosphere, and the intrigue, to be as thick as the winter storm battering Cleveland when the Lakers and Cavaliers play Thursday night.
That certainly isn’t a total refutation of James’ Lakers flirtations, but it also confirms the team has a long way to go before starting to plan his jersey retirement ceremony.
The Lakers have been a young, bad team for years now, and while their recent defensive surge and the excitement they’ve created with their (sometimes surprising) competitiveness this season is a solid start to their rebuild, it might not be on the same timeline that James wants in order to maximize his chances of winning another title before retirement.
While some might dismiss that as an impossible goal anyway given the Golden State Warriors’ existence, James is a competitor, and it would be surprising if he didn’t once again sign wherever gave him the best chance to win.
Shelburne and Windhorst also wrote that James was likely to be unwilling to take less than the full max in free agency, meaning the Lakers would have some more salary clearing moves if they wanted to have room to sign him and another star like Paul George.
Los Angeles could still manage to do so, and the team’s dream of James ending up in purple and gold is certainly far from dead. However, this latest report makes it clear that their fantasies should be considered on life support until the Lakers get a lot better or start clearing money to be able to bring in the types of pieces necessary to entice the King to pick a new, coastal kingdom.
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