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NBA Free Agency Rumors: Only ‘pleading from family members’ could stop LeBron James from leaving the Cavaliers as a free agent

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The latest NBA free agency rumors don’t make it sound particularly likely to return to to the Cavaliers this summer.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Decisions like the one LeBron James will make this summer are not made in the moment for a reason. His Cleveland Cavaliers were just swept, dropping his finals record to three wins, six losses in his nine trips to the June classic.

That kind of situation naturally could lead to some frustration, and leaks like this one, via Marc Stein of the New York Times, which paints a picture of inevitable departure:

“Those privy to James’s thinking say that at this stage, pleading from family members appears to be the only force that could persuade him to extend his second stint with the Cavs and resist the opportunity to switch teams, as he did in 2010 and again in 2014.”

After the Cavaliers lost, LeBron confirmed that his family would play a role in deciding his next decision:

Stein went on in his report to explain that people around the league think LeBron will go wherever gives him the best chance at winning a championship and to also focus on Chris Paul, with whom James is very close. We can get to that later but let’s look more closely at that excerpt.

As per usual, there are a couple ways to read into this.

If you’re inclined to think or hope LeBron stays in Cleveland, you might read that as his family being willing to plead to stay in their home town. Even if this is how you read it, though, professional players play away from home all the time. LeBron has enough say in his situation to make whatever arrangements he has to.

On the other hand, this probably would lead most to believe he’s gone. He’s accomplished what he wanted to in Cleveland and probably would have accomplished more if not for the NBA going with a huge jump in the salary cap instead of smoothing the increase over a few years.

As Stein and many others have reported, the primary goal with any move LeBron makes this year will be to put himself in a situation where he can look at the Warriors and honestly think his team has a chance to knock them off. There are few (if any) situations where he could feel that way in Cleveland moving forward.

Now, for the Lakers specifically, this kind of makes me feel like it’ll be a boon or bust offseason. LeBron won’t come to Los Angeles to play with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram or Julius Randle, as exciting as their futures might be. If he does sign here, it will be with the understanding that at least one (and maybe two) other superstars will be joining him.

If he doesn’t, well, there are only so many superstars to go around, and there is certainly a scenario where the Lakers once again find themselves on the outside looking in during a summer of musical chairs of hall-of-fame talent available.

Pete Zayas and I actually discussed that scenario in Friday’s edition of Locked on Lakers, which you can listen to below.