No one wants to come to Los Angeles to play with LeBron James. Or at least that’s the latest debate show straw-man argument Lakers fans have been endlessly assaulted with since James inked his four-year, $153.3 million contract last summer.
A few players around the league have downplayed that idea, while others have reinforced it. For the players that don’t want to play with James, Lakers controlling owner Jeanie Buss has one message: stay where you are.
In an interview on “The Lowe Post” with Zach Lowe of ESPN, Buss reiterated that she has no interest in signing players that don’t want to play with once-in-a-generation players like James (or Kobe Bryant):
“I heard that about Kobe Bryant too and that makes me laugh, because if somebody doesn’t want to play with the best player playing in the NBA right now, I don’t want them on the team.”
I guess that means no Kevin Durant, eh?
She also told Lowe that she has no regrets about not taking a “shortcut” to sign or trade for an All-Star player to pair with James this summer, and said that she likes how the team is developing without one:
“I see progress that the team is 25-23 right now and the Western Conference is difficult, and I would never think that being over. 500 that you would not be in the playoffs. I think that Magic has been patient, I think Rob Pelinka has done amazing things in terms of giving our roster flexibility and not just taking a shortcut to try and just make the playoffs only to lose in the first round. They see the picture and they’re taking those steps.
“They’re not going to take a shortcut to try get quick fix just to make the playoffs and give up ... any of our assets. That’s what I want to see and I think our fanbase is smart, they love basketball, they understand today’s NBA and they don’t want to take a shortcut either.
“I’m satisfied where we are and at the start of the season my expectations were to be in the playoffs, but given the injuries, you have to see that compromises you. Those are things that are out of our control. Certainly the team has kept us in there. We’re not buried at the bottom, there’s light. Hopefully we’ll start getting these players back sooner than later.”
The Lakers will have somewhere in the ballpark of $38.2 million to spend on an All-Star player like Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson or Kawhi Leonard this summer. They could also use that cap space to absorb a contract back in a trade for an All-Star caliber player like Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol or Bradley Beal.
In other words, the Lakers have options and they seem to know that, which is why they’re willing to stay patient with their young players. Unless a trade that would put them in immediate contention for a championship materializes, expect the front office to stay the course with the steady development of the team, and Buss to be just fine with that.