While the Kyrie Irving saga has dragged on for weeks to close out the summer, the date when LeBron James can first sign a contract extension with the Lakers — August 4 — has quietly started to creep towards the present. Now, both stories will be central to the discussion surrounding the Lakers until they make a trade, or James signs on the dotted line. The King’s looming decision is the focus of the reports and rumors heading into the weekend.
Life in L.A.
LeBron’s initial choice to come to the Lakers was certainly one not based wholly on the state of the franchise. Likewise, his decision on an extension appears to be one that won’t be wholly based on the state of the franchise a number of years later.
According to longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein’s latest Substack newsletter, James and his family remain happy in Los Angeles, something that will surely play a big role in his future in the NBA.
Sources briefed on the matter stress that James is extremely happy in Los Angeles despite the Lakers’ back-to-back rocky seasons. He and his family, by all accounts, have grown increasingly entrenched in Southern California since James signed with the Lakers in the summer of 2018.
One of the signals of how entrenched he has become in southern California was James taking part in the Drew League in mid-July. He certainly has embraced living in Los Angeles for half a decade now.
Ironically, it’s family that could lead to him leaving Los Angeles eventually. Bronny James, LeBron’s oldest son, will be draft eligible in 2024. LeBron has spoken of his desire to play alongside him and some around the league believe that represents the greatest threat to the Jameses leaving L.A.
The prevailing thinking in league circles holds that only the chance to play elsewhere alongside son Bronny James, who will be eligible for the 2024 draft and continues to develop as an NBA prospect, would spur LeBron to push for an L.A. exit.
All that paints a great picture for LeBron staying in Los Angeles, but his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers always feel like a threat to steal him away...
Yet another homecoming?
The Cavs are always going to have an inherent advantage in recruiting LeBron with Cleveland being mere miles away from his hometown of Akron. So long as he’s in the league and free agency looms, he’ll be linked to them. But unlike 2014 when LeBron last returned to Cleveland, the Cavs are in a much, much better basketball situation.
On the latest episode of “The Crossover NBA Show” with Chris Mannix and Howard Beck, Cleveland.com Cavs beat reporter Chris Fedor addressed the potential of LeBron leaving Los Angeles for Cleveland.
“The Cavs aren’t sitting here today saying ‘LeBron, come to our organization, save us’ the way that they were in 2014. They feel like they have a good thing going. They feel like there’s more upside with this group. They feel like they can be a playoff team this year. They don’t feel like they desperately need LeBron like they did in 2014. But if he’s willing to come and they can keep the roster intact and they have the cap space to bring him aboard, they’re in no position to say no to that caliber of player and I think they know that.”
While the Cavs are building a solid team, they aren’t doing so with an eye on LeBron. And even as bad as things have gone in Los Angeles the last two seasons, it doesn’t seem like, for now, a sudden relocation a realistic possibility. But we are also just a handful of months removed from LeBron complimenting the Cavs, so it doesn’t seem entirely out of the cards.
There could be one way the Lakers could greatly increase their chances of LeBron staying...
Latest Kyrie Irving update
It wouldn’t be a rumor roundup without SOMETHING about Kyrie Irving. Trade negotiations for the seven-time All-Star between the Lakers and Nets are still at a complete standstill.
However, it still seems like a longshot Kyrie will actually return to the Nets given how things have played out. Brooklyn Nets beat writer Alex Schiffer of The Athletic discussed his thoughts on whether Irving would be back next season in Brooklyn.
I’m still skeptical he’s a Net next season. Would it surprise me? No. He’s from the area, and has a home and newborn there along with the rest of his family. But the vibe I got with the Nets was that last season was such a mess that they don’t want to run it back unless significant changes are made.
There isn’t much in the way of reporting in there, but it’s the same sense that many have had about the situation and reaffirms that it feels like a longshot that he stays in Brooklyn.
However, the Lakers don’t appear particularly close to acquiring Irving right now, or completing really any trade. Their lack of desire to include a second first-round pick remains the hangup in every trade discussion, which may be potentially by design according to Dan Woike of the LA Times.
Sources have said the Lakers are more reluctant to part with picks this summer than in the past, maybe a sign that they realize there aren’t any quick fixes or maybe a sign that they’re willing to wait as long as possible in an effort to try and get price tags lowered.
The Lakers don’t really have a deadline until training camp starts in September. Until then, they can continue taking a slow approach in negotiating. LeBron might try to put some heat on the franchise by refusing to sign his extension until Kyrie is a Laker, all of which will set up a long but interesting remainder of the summer.