Before the Los Angeles Lakers could sign LeBron James this summer, they had to make a few tough decisions with their roster for maximum financial flexibility in free agency, which included trading fan favorite Larry Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers at last season’s February trade deadline.
The Lakers sent Nance — along with Jordan Clarkson and his much larger contract — to Cleveland for the expiring contracts of Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a first-round pick that was used to draft Moe Wagner. That trade allowed the Lakers to offer James a four-year max contract in free agency.
Yes, you read that right: the Cavaliers facilitated the trade that allowed James to pack his bags and move to Los Angeles. Thank you, Koby Altman.
The trade did come with the small price of losing Nance, though, who at one time was a key part of the team’s young core and a joy for fans to watch with his high-flying poster slams.
However, while Nance appreciated his time with the Lakers, he told Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times that he’s happy he was traded in hindsight:
“I’m still grateful for the trade,” Nance said. “I enjoyed my time in L.A. but Cleveland’s home for me. … I got to play in the Finals with one of the greatest players ever. I have no regrets about it. I’m happy as hell. Obviously, you want to win every game. You don’t get to the NBA without having that kind of a competitive nature. But I think for me as a player, the growth, the mistakes I’m allowed to make, the growth I’m allowed to be in the middle of, it’s super beneficial.
“I’m playing 30 minutes a night and getting to mess up and shoot threes and expand my game. I don’t think I’d be getting to do that if we weren’t in that situation.”
Nance also glossed over the fact that he signed a four-year extension worth $45 million. If I were Nance, I’d be pretty happy too.
Unfortunately, Nance and the Cavaliers have struggled to start the season, going 2-13 through their first 15 games. Individually, Nance hasn’t been much more successful, averaging 7.2 points on 46.9 percent shooting from the field to go along with 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
Nance is expected to come off of the bench when the Lakers visit the Cavaliers on Saturday. David Nwaba, another former Laker, will start at power forward, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic.
And while Nance won’t get the same standing ovation that James is hoping to get in his return to the Quicken Loans Arena, he’ll surely get — and deserve — a warm welcome back when he visit Staples Center in January.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.