The Lakers kicked off one of their most important offseasons in recent franchise history on Sunday with the messy handling of Frank Vogel’s firing. It was hardly the right foot to start on, but emblematic of how the Lakers have operated over the last year-plus of the LeBron James era.
Still lingering over everything the Lakers are set to do in the coming months, however, is James, the man who brought Los Angeles a title and the man who could potentially depart the franchise after next season with just the one ring. James’ contract is set to expire after the 2022-23 season, and given how disastrously the season just ended, it would be fair to wonder what his future may hold.
He says it’s not something he’s given a ton of thought to yet because he is not allowed to.
“Well, the conversation has not been talked about technically because of the collective bargaining agreement,” James said during his exit interview on Monday morning. “That can’t even be discussed until later on in the year. So I know it’s out there, but we — myself and Rich (Paul, James’ agent and CEO of Klutch Sports Group) — can’t even begin to talk with Rob (Pelinka) and the front office at all because of the collective bargaining agreement. So when we get to that point, we’ll see.”
It was a clever dodge from James and one that is factually correct, since he legally cannot discuss an extension with the Lakers until August. But it’d be naive to think those conversations haven’t happened. General manager Rob Pelinka did a similar dodge during his exit
grilling interview on Monday as well, though added the caveat of James expressing a desire to remain in Los Angeles long-term.
“The partnership we’ve had, first with LeBron, his representatives, has been great and just a gold standard,” Pelinka said. “We’ve appreciated his professionalism and directness and the amount of conversations we have over the course of the season is really meaningful. Every indication that we’ve received is that he sees the Lakers as his home. The CBA...is very specific about what we can and can’t say about player negotiations, so we have to be very mindful and follow those rules so I can’t talk about his future contract status. But the feeling is he loves being a Laker and sees this as a long-term home. That’s been made loud and clear.”
For a Lakers franchise that has botched seemingly every move they’ve made of late, still having the commitment of James would be a massive win moving forward. Most notably heading into an offseason where they will have to find a head coach and rebuild the roster once again, having the commitment of James will certainly make the process easier and answer the looming question most incoming candidates or players would have.
It isn’t a wild notion for the Lakers to think James will stay around, despite this messy year. In February, James’ himself said he sees himself “being with the purple and gold as long as I can play” when discussing his future with the franchise.
On Monday, he reiterated that his goal is to continue winning titles in Los Angeles.
“I came here to win a championship and I want to win more,” James said. “So I accomplished what I want to accomplish, but I’m still hungry for more. I’m confident that this organization wants the same. That’s what this organization has always been about. And also just wanting to change the narrative about how this franchise can compete at a high level again. What they’ve done for decades, and decades, and decades of winning.
“When I signed here, Magic (Johnson) was here and Rob was here, and obviously Rob is still here, and I told them that I wanted to help this franchise become a champion once again. So I’ve done that, we’ve done that, but I want to do it again.”
There will be no imminent extension signed prior to hiring a head coach, making a trade or landing a free agent. In fact, the two sides can’t even technically begin discussing a deal until after most of the free agency and offseason madness will be over.
The CBA won't allow the Lakers and LeBron to work an extension before August. That said, and as recent tampering penalties to other franchises would suggest, such conversations tend to happen before they're technically legal. Lakers likely need a sense before offseason decisions— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) April 11, 2022
But the good news for the Lakers and their fans is that, despite everything that has gone wrong, it still seems like James is committed to turning it around and making multiple more runs at the NBA title... assuming they can undo basically everything they did last offseason and put enough of a competitive roster around him to compete for a championship in the process.