LeBron James' heroic performance in the NBA Finals dragged the Cleveland Cavaliers to the franchise's first ever title, so it's hard to believe he would be considering another free agency departure. However, according to Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, that is exactly what James is doing.
"I'm hearing that its a huge possibility that if he leaves Cleveland the Lakers could be in the mix," Smith said during a segment on ESPN's First Take.
Now before you totally dismiss this as more of Stephen A.'s usual brand of trolltastic carnival barking, consider that he was the among the first to report LeBron would leave for the Miami Heat AND return to Cleveland. As many things as Smith seemingly just says for attention, he does seem to be at the very least somewhat well-sourced in James' camp.
Smith is also not the first national reporter to mention Los Angeles as a destination for LeBron if the Cavaliers won the title. Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical wrote this last week when discussing the possibility of LeBron's Finals victory fueling a second exit from Cleveland:
One more victory, one more magnificent night at Oracle Arena, and James will get to run off with his buddies again somewhere warm. Miami. Los Angeles. Wherever. There's a restlessness about James that craves the next big move, the next power play. Franchises are on watch again, believing nothing's forever in Northeast Ohio. Sooner or later, there's a belief that James comes into play again, a line of thinking that his inner circle has done nothing to dissuade. As for James himself, well, he has gone so far as to publicly describe an end-of-career scenario that doesn't include Cleveland.
The Lakers will have the most cap space in the league, which would allow James (an unrestricted free agent this summer) to build a new team of super friends on the West coast. However, he just won a freaking NBA title against the best regular season team of all-time, and whether or not he could immediately assemble a better roster in Los Angeles than the one he has now is an open question. The answer to that question is almost assuredly "no."
The Lakers' core is also still so young it's really hard to see James' being willing to wait around for them to develop, which would most likely mean the Lakers would have to consider shipping them out for more established players. That's a lot of variables and what-if's to introduce into the mix when LeBron already has a team he knows can win it all (and an easier path to the Finals) in Cleveland..
So is there a real chance LeBron James could be suiting up in purple and gold next year? It still seems VERY far from the most likely outcome of this summer, which is LeBron re-upping with the Cavs and defending Cleveland's first title in approximately 9,000 years. Lakers fans shouldn't hold their breath, but I guess it can't totally be dismissed outright either
You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.