It’s the NBA offseason, which means it’s officially time for rumor after rumor to leak about Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and where he might play next summer.
The silly season started with a report that LeBron James might end up in Los Angeles, with either the Los Angeles Lakers or LA Clippers. Then there was word that Paul George — who has since been traded by the Indiana Pacers to the Oklahoma City Thunder — was already attempting to convince James to join him with the Lakers in 2018.
Such scenarios seem far-fetched for obvious reasons. The Cavaliers are a championship contending team coming off a run of three-straight NBA Finals appearances. Cleveland is near James’ home of Akron, Ohio, and his emotional homecoming was one of the things that made the Cavaliers’ 2016 title so meaningful.
That said, James has already left Cleveland once for their failure to put a winning roster around him, and after the latest report on the situation from Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, it’s not hard to imagine him doing so again.
LeBron James, the NBA’s most powerful player and biggest star who brought the Cleveland Cavaliers their first NBA championship, is concerned about the Cavaliers’ offseason, a person close to the situation told USA TODAY Sports.
Expecting an aggressive offseason approach that would close the gap on the champion Golden State Warriors, James soon found his anticipation and optimism diminished after Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert dismantled the front office, declining days before the draft and free agency to bring back general manager David Griffin and vice president of basketball operations Trent Redden.
Gilbert’s decision left the Cavaliers without the franchise’s top two front-office execs at a critical time, and it left James frustrated and concerned about the team’s ability to put together a roster that can better compete with Golden State, the person with direct knowledge of James’ thinking told USA TODAY Sports. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
If James really had a desire to leave, Gilbert is certainly making his decision easier by how much of a disaster the Cavaliers offseason has been. Losing a general manager who James trusted while dithering over the trade market and mostly whiffing in free agency is hardly the way to make James feel as though Cleveland gives him the best chance to win.
The Lakers may not seem like James’ best chance to win either, but that’s solely judging by their roster today, which could be a faulty way of evaluating what team would actually be there if James migrated to Los Angeles (more from Zillgitt):
James can become a free agent following the 2017-18 season, and it doesn’t take a wild imagination to see him elsewhere – especially if he feels there’s a better opportunity for him to win a championship with another team. The Lakers are mentioned as a possibility with James recruiting another star to join a young and talented core for the 2018-19 season.
Now it’s worth noting that Zillgitt doesn’t source who is mentioning the chance James could join the Lakers. (Other reports? Other reporters? People close to James?) but in conjunction with all of the other reporting on his interest in the Lakers it is worth noting at the very least.
It’s still probably not correct to call the King putting on the purple and gold armor the most likely possibility, but the more and more leaks come out about it, the more and more real of a potential scenario it appears to be.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.