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Before extending, the Lakers promised LeBron James they are ‘willing to trade both of their available future first-round picks’

All LeBron James wanted before extending was assurance that the Lakers will continue to prioritize his twilight years even if it means taking risks with their future.

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2022 NBA Summer League - Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Before LeBron James committed the remaining years of his career to the Lakers, one of the biggest questions heading into the summer was whether or not the latter was willing to give up the rest of their tradable draft capital for the decade to revamp this year’s roster.

And after two months of anticipation, we got the answer. As it turns out, Rob Pelinka and Co. are reportedly ready to give up their remaining two precious draft picks (for the right price) to maximize James’ last few years in Los Angeles. As a result, the four-time champion got what he wanted, and rewarded his employer with his commitment for at least one more year, and potentially two.

Aside from his commitment, James’ contract extension proves that his faith in the Lakers front office was restored despite an extremely rocky year full of finger-pointing within the organization for the mess that was the 2021-2022 Lakers season.

Just recently, Brian Windhorst confirmed that read of things on his “Hoop Collective” podcast, saying that someone close to James told him that his contract extension was a show of faith in the Lakers:

“After the deal was done, I asked ‘why [extend] now?’ And basically I was told ‘because LeBron believes in the Lakers.’”

And while Windhorst didn’t specifically indicate this, part of the reason for that faith may be because — according to veteran NBA insider Marc Stein’s latest Substack — James has been promised that the team will do what is necessary, including surrendering both their available first-round picks, to build a contender around him again:

L.A. has nonetheless pledged to James that it will indeed continue to aggressively pursue upgrades. League sources say James, in fact, has been assured that the Lakers are willing to trade both of their available future first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 if a trade that costs them both picks can realistically position the Lakers to return to contender status.

So yes, despite two straight underwhelming seasons (including last year being arguably the worst in franchise history) both James and the Lakers remain aligned in achieving the same goal — which is to bring more trophies to Los Angeles. His contract extension not only checks the biggest task on their to-do list but it also gives Los Angeles a leverage advantage in trade negotiations (I wrote more about this aspect here).

If you connect the dots, it’s not hard to assume that this was the most ideal and convenient decision for both parties, because just a week ago, I wrote about Pelinka’s desire for James to retire with the purple and gold. Then, as soon as James was eligible for a contract extension, his camp leaked that he and his agent Rich Paul had productive talks with the management on the first day of being eligible to sign a contract.

Perhaps what came as a surprise was how early James signed his extension. You’d think that with how catastrophic last season was, James would hold back in his commitment until the Lakers proved to him that they wouldn’t waste a single minute of his career again and granted his biggest offseason wish which is to acquire his old friend Kyrie Irving.

But once again, James gave the Lakers the benefit of the doubt. And while he and his family’s life off the court and thriving businesses in L.A. likely played a huge role in it, LeBron’s decision to stay with the purple and gold for at least two more seasons is the most significant accomplishment for the Lakers this summer.

Because if there is one thing James proved to them last season, it’s that he’s still more than capable of leading the Lakers in their historic quest of raising banner number 18. Now he just needs a few more teammates to follow his lead, and with two firsts on the table and James freshly extended so teams can’t hold that uncertainty over the Lakers’ head in talks, acquiring them should be a bit easier than it was before now.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.

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