It sounds like LeBron won’t be playing for the Lakers next year.
The Lakers don’t intend to pursue a superstar free agent this summer and instead are “recalibrating their focus” on the summer of 2019, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.
That would mean the Lakers won’t be signing LeBron James if he chooses to opt out of his contract with the Cavaliers after this season.
Los Angeles would need to shed large contracts before the new league year in order to open up a max contract spot or two to pursue James, Paul George and other top-tier players. Jordan Clarkson is owed $26 million over the next two seasons while Luol Deng, who has played just 13 minutes all season, is owed $37 million in the same span.
The Lakers would likely have to part with draft picks in order to get other teams to take on those deals, which doesn’t seem as attractive now as it did a few months ago given how different the 2018 free-agent market looks. Paul George says he’s leaning toward remaining with the Thunder and DeMarcus Cousins just suffered a serious leg injury. LeBron, meanwhile, doesn’t sound as keen on joining the Lakers anyway.
“James is believed to have a reluctance toward signing with the Lakers without an established star immediately joining him,” Wojnarowski reports.
Other 2018 free agents include Isaiah Thomas, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul, while the 2019 class could include Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson and Kevin Love, among others. If James continues his trend of signing deals with player options he could also be free agent again in 2019.
James also has no interest in waiving his no-trade clause to leave Cleveland before the season is over, Yahoo’s Shams Charania reports.
LeBron had long been rumored to favor Los Angeles as a post-Cleveland destination and just bought a second mansion there late last year.