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LeBron James meets with Lakers brass to discuss contract extension

Lakers, LeBron James, Jeanie Buss, Rob Pelinka, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook

LeBron James became eligible for a contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. After his meeting with team brass, though, the four-time champion left without a new deal in place.

Still, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports that James and agent Rich Paul left “productive” discussions with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka ready to continue extension negotiations going forward.

Los Angeles can currently give James a two-year, $97.1 million extension with a starting salary of approximately $47 million. It seems unlikely he’d commit two more seasons to the purple and gold beyond 2022-23 without a player option, though, considering James’ public desire to play with his son, Bronny, who becomes draft eligible in 2024.

League sources reportedly believe that James will slow play extension talks before ultimately re-upping with Los Angeles. He has until June 30th of next year to sign a new deal, after all, and allowing for the possibility of unrestricted free agency could help him strong-arm the Lakers into making 2027 and 2029 first-round picks available in a potential Russell Westbrook trade.

James and his family are reportedly more entrenched than ever in Southern California, too. But the longer he is unsigned, the more rumors will swirl about James’ potential departure—especially considering one of the teams poised to have enough cap space to sign the pride of Northeast Ohio is the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James publicly alluded to the possibility of another return to Cleveland at All-Star weekend in February. Though there’s been no concrete reporting on the Cavaliers’ interest in signing him next summer, Dan Gilbert and company would be fools to resist James’ potential desire to finish his career where it started—even if it meant going out of their way to acquire Bronny in 2024.

Cleveland has one of the league’s brightest young cores in Evan Mobley, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen. Why couldn’t those guys be ready to contend for a championship with James in 2023-24? That’s one of many, many questions concerning James’ future league decision-makers will be asking themselves until he puts pen to paper on an extension with the Lakers.

No one plays this type of waiting game better than LeBron James. Let’s see how it plays over the course of 2022-23.

[Dave McMenamin, ESPN]