The Los Angeles Lakers may have to trade for him LeBron James this summer.
James has clearly been humiliated by the Lakers’ management twice in the past two weeks. First when she chose not to strike a deal before the February 10 trading deadline after he publicly and privately urged him to do something. More precisely, expect it. And second when Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka crossed the line when he announced that James was aware of the status quo. A source told ESPN that there was no pre-approval from James.
Since then, he’s been hammering the team’s knuckles with rounds of passive-aggressive brand maneuvers, both on social media and at press conferences. He then became aggressive during All-Star Weekend in an interview with The Athletic where he dropped lighter liquid on an earlier Bubbles concept that he might finally return to the Cleveland Cavaliers before retiring.
No matter how James, 37, might try to shape those quotes from now on — he’s been so eager to qualify them — a major media worker, while standing in Cleveland, was talking to a reporter he knows well. He knew just what he was doing.
Just as he was doing last week, following inaction on the trading deadline, when he talked about how his recent knee injury is likely to trouble him for the rest of the season. The knee is definitely an issue, but James was also laying the groundwork to give himself options depending on how the rest of the season played for the Lakers (27-31).
What James is doing likely targets one primary goal: forcing the Lakers to do a big job this summer. He tried to do it well and now he does it hard.
It’s not about leaving L.A. – it’s not something James wants. It’s not even about playing with his son. Bruni, 17, has at least two years out of the NBA, if he’s capable and ready at that age. There’s a lot of basketball now and then, and as James has made clear this season, there’s still gas in the tank to spread out before worrying about that dream.
James never cared about draft choices, present or future. He had an occasional interest in developing his young teammates, adopting a few of them over the years. But he’d never had a problem saying goodbye if his charging out pushed him to the nearest gold prize faster. Any young man on his list who thinks differently has not done their research.
He’s playing now and always wants to win the championship in the season he’s in. You don’t play eight consecutive NBA Finals, 10 of them over 13 years while switching teams three times, by focusing only on the long-term. James tells his teams to work this way, he brings it up every day and expects others too. That includes management entirely.
Now it would be wise to remember the winter of 2018, when James was frustrated by the flawed Caves team. He refused to extend his contract the previous summer when striking a deal Paul George It was on the table. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert responded with a bow Keri IrvingCommercial demand, getting a deal centered around picking the draft and not the players as James made it clear he wanted.
There was reasonable denial, but in mid-January James began playing under some form of protest. Everyone on the team was aware of this and it was clear that if you watched closely enough, James’ feet were off the gas. Kobe Altman, general manager of Gilbert and Caves, was at a crossroads and knew there was a strong chance of James leaving at free agency but they still had the rest of the season.
Eventually, Gilbert and Altman realized they had no choice. James was an irreplaceable resource. Once he is gone, there will be no one else. So the day before the final trade date, they got several trades in place. That night, Altman met James before the match and told him the next day that they were trading for four new players and decided to use their first-round pick that year to do so. He was the seventh first player to trade them in the four seasons James returned.
While shattering Josh Giddey’s game, LeBron James said Sam Presti is the best player in his game with his eye on talent.
That night, peppy James finished his masterpiece-like hit with 37 points, 10 rebounds, and 15 assists that included hitting buzzer to win a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He fronted this with a motion for the passive-aggressive personality Hall of Fame, turning his back on Isaiah Thomas when he commissioned the court to celebrate. James never wanted the Cavs to trade for Thomas and already knew it would be shipped the next day.
The Cavs got four players on the deadline, but that wasn’t the real prize. That night, the members of the front office looked at each other and realized: What they were really trading was James.
He followed it up with one of the greatest post-season runs of his professional career, making two smash hits and winning two games in Game Seven—including one on the road—to claim his eighth straight final.
The Lakers got into it all, getting into the Cavs’ deals and using them to get a higher salary space to sign James the following summer and earn their first-round pick.
Now they may need to remember that.
After the Lakers won the title in 2020, James extended his contract by two seasons until 2023. Due to the rules regarding this extension, James was unable to obtain a player option in the deal. This is the first time he doesn’t have the option to terminate the contract early since he’s been in a novice deal for nearly two decades.
There was no problem even when the deal was announced, but that’s a lucky circumstance now. The Lakers will get to this summer without worrying about James getting into free agency and watching it work before deciding whether to re-sign.
But it is not free. August 4 is the first day James can extend his contract again. The Lakers will definitely offer one. James will have some demands before he accepts.
The Lakers have a flawed roster — yes, James played a big role in putting it together but that doesn’t mean he’s not ready to divorce it — but they do have options. if Russell Westbrook Choosing his own player option, he will be on an expired contract worth $47 million.
After they were only able to trade their pick in the first round of 2027 – which the Lakers decided not to trade on the deadline, in part because they still owed two future priorities from Anthony Davis Deal – The rules will then allow the Lakers to trade their 2029 pick.
Being aggressive and further mortgage the future will be painful and risky. But James makes his feelings clear: he doesn’t care. Do that and he’ll get more new players, and it’ll keep James deeply invested.
This is something no team has been able to refuse.
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