The Los Angeles Lakers have been preparing themselves for the summer of 2018 since the moment Magic Johnson took the reins of the franchise from Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak. The plan isn’t dissimilar to previous ones — have salary space, be the Lakers, make the pitch — but the air around the Lakers has certainly changed since the arrival of the new regime.
The biggest target in the summer is, of course, LeBron James. The Lakers aren’t the only franchise hoping to sit down with LeBron, but they are hoping they’re the front office he’s sitting with when he signs his name on the dotted line. That reality, however, is a “longshot,” sources tell Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.
ESPN’s big duo of Lakers-LeBron coverage collaborated for a deep dive into the latest on the situation, laying down the foundation of what the situation looks like ahead of the first of two meetings between LA and Cleveland.
The biggest takeaway? As usual, the more we think we know about LeBron’s decision, the less we actually do. ESPN’s report points to the Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets as the biggest teams “believed to want to pitch James.” None of that is necessarily startling news.
Whispers are going to ultimately echo around the league as both the Lakers and LeBron inch closer to what could be a Hollywood blockbuster of a summer. The Lakers have been clear from the onset that they want two stars, and one of the more interesting morsels from the piece was James “aggressively” recruited Paul George to join the Cleveland Cavaliers last offseason.
You know, the star player most-often linked as one of the pieces the Lakers have an actual shot at. The same player Rob Pelinka triggered a $500,000 tampering fine for. Here’s what ESPN had to say about that:
At this stage of James' career, a roster with two-way players who could help battle his rivals in Golden State would be a huge plus. Other playmakers who can take the burden off James would help as well. That's the reason James and George, the other marquee free agent next summer, have been linked. James aggressively recruited George behind the scenes last summer, selling him on a future together in Cleveland, but the Cavs deal mysteriously fell apart before George was dealt to Oklahoma City.
The Lakers walking away with both LeBron and George in a single summer would be nothing short of spectacular, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the duo could also look to take their talents elsewhere together.
LeBron is going to have control of the NBA when free agency begins. How it actually plays out remains a mystery, and anyone who says otherwise is either purely speculating, or found Doc’s DeLorean.