Rumors that the biggest free agents want to play for the Los Angeles Lakers seem to surface every summer, but the noise about LeBron James’ potential desire to wear purple and gold are starting to get too loud to ignore.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN was the fire-starter, reporting a year ago that James might want to unite with his superfriends Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade in Los Angeles at some point.
Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer followed that up by reporting a few weeks ago that James might be aiming to end up with either the Lakers or LA Clippers in the summer of 2018, and our own Anthony Irwin added that Lakers owner Jeanie Buss had met with James’ friend and agent Maverick Carter over the last few months, something Mark Medina of the Southern California News Group confirmed during an episode of Locked on Lakers.
That’s already a lot of noise, and now “the most dominant force in NBA reporting,” Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical, chimed in on those reports on his latest podcast, giving the #LeBronToLA movement even further legitimacy:
“Not only is there no guarantee he's coming back, I'm not sure there is an expectation he's re-signing there. I think within Cleveland and around the league they feel that he is very much in play to leave again and likely head out West to one of the two LA teams. The Lakers could very well be a target.”
Wojnarowski then spoke a bit about the possibility that James might even re-join Dwyane Wade with the Miami HEAT before pivoting back to Los Angeles:
“I think the focus, a lot of LeBron's business interests, his Hollywood aspirations, his media ventures are base out there, and I wrote this last year and said it and believed it: The minute he won that championship in Cleveland he was liberated to leave again. Now if he had not won a title in Cleveland and left again, I think there would be tremendous backlash again. But the fact that he came back and did what he set out to do, which was bring a title to Cleveland (could allow him to leave).”
The key thing here is that it doesn’t seem to be exclusively the Lakers that James is interested in, these reports always concern both teams in Los Angeles, leaving the Clippers as a possibility as well.
The Lakers currently seem to have a better chance to have more cap space given that president of basketball operations Magic Johnson has spoken numerous times about saving cap space for 2018, while the Clippers might have to commit big money to Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick this summer.
Johnson has also made it no secret that he really likes the 2018 free agent class. Before this was just assumed to be veiled compliments to Indiana Pacers forward Paul George, but we also know Johnson is a big fan of James’ as well.
Signing James is still a long shot for the Lakers. A ton of things would have to fall into place for it to happen, like Cleveland losing in the Finals again, the Lakers freeing up enough cap space, the team’s young talent showing enough promise to either entice LeBron, or build up enough trade value to be flipped for better “win-now” pieces, etc.
Still, there is definitely enough smoke here that it’s not worth totally dismissing the possibility of LeBron in a Lakers jersey completely, even if fans probably shouldn’t go and buy one yet.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.