LeBron James’ true feelings on Lakers after recent letdowns
The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t exactly lived up to expectations after winning the 2020 title. And as training camp fast approaches, the purple-and-gold are no closer to legitimate championship contention in 2022-23, still in a state of flux while scouring the market for Russell Westbrook trades.
The Lakers’ inability to build a winner and ongoing dysfunction is no doubt frustrating to LeBron James, even though he played a pivotal role in the acquisition of Westbrook. Still, as his eligibility for a contract extension looms, the 37-year-old reportedly has no desire to leave Los Angeles.
According to league insider Marc Stein, James is more “entrenched” in Southern California than ever, happy with his family life despite the Lakers’ struggles.
Sources briefed on the matter stress that James is extremely happy in Los Angeles despite the Lakers’ back-to-back rocky seasons. He and his family, by all accounts, have grown increasingly entrenched in Southern California since James signed with the Lakers in the summer of 2018.
James is eligible for a contract extension on August 4th, and can sign a new deal with the Lakers up until the end of the league year in late June 2023. He’ll hit free agency if he fails to reach an agreement with Los Angeles, though, where the Cleveland Cavaliers are likely to have enough cap space to sign the pride of Northeast Ohio outright.
James fanned the flames of his potential return to Cleveland at All-Star weekend in February. Bringing him back would immediately vault the Cavaliers to title contention, giving the wine-and-gold an elite quartet of James, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. It would be shocking if the asset-poor Lakers somehow scrambled together a similarly exalted core by the time James finally decides to retire.
But all recent momentum indicates James has plans to remain with Los Angeles regardless. Stein reports that league sources believe the only factor that could realistically push James from the Lakers is the opportunity to play on another team with his son, Bronny, when the younger James becomes draft eligible in 2024.
The prevailing thinking in league circles holds that only the chance to play elsewhere alongside son Bronny James, who will be eligible for the 2024 draft and continues to develop as an NBA prospect, would spur LeBron to push for an L.A. exit.
A lot can change between now and next summer, especially given the Lakers’ Westbrook conundrum. Until further notice, though, it’s most prudent to proceed as if James will finish his career in Los Angeles.