When LeBron James joined the Los Angeles Lakers over the summer, it was just the first step in the team’s road back to title contention.
President of basketball operations Magic Johnson said the team was “back” but would be “back back” in the summer of 2019, and given his success bringing in his first star, there is little reason to doubt that Johnson can bring in a second.
Because let’s be real: If Johnson could sell James to sign with a rebuilding Lakers team, selling another star on joining forces with James in Los Angeles should be easy. And if it’s not, James told Rachel Nichols of ESPN that he’s ready to help with such pitches:
The Lakers star has admitted his shortcomings in recruiting stars in the past -- James tried to get Ray Allen, Joe Johnson, Michael Redd and Chris Bosh to join him in Cleveland during his first stint with the Cavaliers, to no avail.
”A lot of people didn’t want to come to Cleveland, let me just throw that out there,” James told Nichols. “I tried to recruit so many guys to come to Cleveland, and we actually had -- I had -- a couple guys and it just didn’t work out.”
It’s interesting to hear James acknowledge the elephant in the room: That for as much as he personally loves Cleveland, Akron and the rest of the midwest, it was probably not the easiest sell to NBA players. That problem was one of the things that James’ move to Los Angeles seemed to solve, and he agrees:
“It wasn’t hard getting guys in Miami, I’ll tell you that,” James said, reflecting on his success with guys like Mike Miller and Shane Battier when he played for the Heat. “So now that I think being in L.A., I don’t think it would be that hard to get guys here.
”But we got to win, and at the end of the day, it’s all about winning. You know, and that’s what I’m trying to do right now, is to show prospects and free agents -- and at the same time, show these guys that I got right now -- that we can win now, and let’s not worry about the future.”
James is right about the Lakers needing to show prospective free agents that they can win if they want to get them to come to LA.
If the Lakers can do that, then there are a lot worse pitches to go into a summer with than max cap space, a chance to play with James and the city of Los Angeles. Some star free agents might not find that opportunity appealing, but the Lakers only need one to say yes.
July is a long ways away, but that’s when we’ll know if a Johnson and James recruiting team can be as compelling in a pitch meeting as it sounds in theory.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.