When LeBron James decided to take his talents to Los Angeles in the summer of 2018, it marked a new chapter for the Lakers.
At the time, James and the Lakers (who at that time were still co-managed by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka) promised each other that they would do whatever it took to hang a 17th purple and gold banner in the rafters. And then, in his second year with the team, James fulfilled his promise, leading the team to the 2020 NBA Championship.
But just two seasons after winning the championship, almost everything the Lakers had built during LeBron’s tenure has come undone. Not only did the Lakers just conclude what is probably the most disappointing season in franchise history, but it became a wasted year for James, who’s now heading into the 20th season of his storybook basketball career.
Thanks to a handful of horrific trades and free agent signings which helped break up the championship roster they had, the Lakers are currently stuck in the mud, ironically waiting for another team’s downfall to fix the mess they created for themselves in the first place. But unlike the period before James arrived, Rob Pelinka and the Lakers brass have a deadline to rebuild their team from a non-playoff squad to a championship contender in a span of just a few weeks.
Because this time, the pressure is coming from James, whose contract with the Lakers is bound to expire next year if he doesn’t ink an extension. Even if there have been reports that indicate James is beyond satisfied with his livelihood in Los Angeles, the Lakers must still strike gold in the remaining weeks of the summer if they want the four-time champions’ full commitment moving forward.
But at least, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes, Pelinka is well aware of what’s at stake for the Lakers this offseason and the importance of turning the franchise around this season. The general manager has made it clear that he wants James to spend the last few years of his career in a purple and gold jersey. According to Haynes:
“Pelinka made his feelings clear that he wants James to retire as a Laker and promised to provide him with every resource possible to compete for a championship each year he’s with the organization, sources said.”
Currently, the Lakers are far from being considered contenders but Pelinka and even Jeanie Buss have said that they’re not done making moves. Nobody’s doubting Pelinka and Buss’ intentions, but it’ll still be interesting to see how hell-bent they are on putting James in position to compete for a championship with any moves they make over the next few weeks.
Will the Lakers be willing to give up the remainder of their tradeable draft capital if that’s what it takes to help James get another shot at a title?
Will they be able to salvage their worst trade transaction in franchise history?
Did they assemble the right leadership and players around their superstar to carry them once again?
The answers to these questions could determine whether or not James will continue to wear the purple and gold jersey over the next few years.
Because while the Lakers may have made it clear that they want James to be part of the organization until he retires, he hasn’t gotten on board with that plan yet. And, it seems like the only way the Lakers can regain James’ trust is to hit a home run (or two) on the trade market in the next few weeks.