Until it is signed (if at all), LeBron James’ extension will be the focal point of the Lakers offseason moving forward, and it is already the central theme of these latest reports and rumors.
On the table
In a shock to absolutely nobody, the Lakers do indeed want to re-sign LeBron James. According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, there will be an offer on the table from the Lakers on Thursday, Aug. 4, the first day an extension could be signed.
The Lakers plan to offer LeBron an extension on August 4th, per Jovan. LeBron may hold out on signing the extension until a trade takes place since the roster isn't currently title-worthy.— Richard Staple, BSN, RN (@RichStapless) August 3, 2022
Nothing is particularly surprising here. Obviously, the Lakers want him back, and obviously, that deal is going to be on the table at the first moment possible. Now, whether LeBron will sign it remains an entirely different proposition, especially as an opposing team looms large.
For as long as LeBron doesn’t sign the extension, rumors of LeBron’s interest in returning to the Cavaliers will only continue to swirl. They reportedly may not be begging James to come back, but are open to adding him to the roster... so long as it’s on their terms.
On his latest episode of the “Please Don’t Aggregate This” podcast, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report said that the Cavs have interest in LeBron’s return, but only to be another piece of the puzzle.
“Of course, Cleveland would be open to a LeBron return but it does seem like the Cavaliers made it very clear — I don’t know how they did because these things are sensitive and delicate — but the word I got was very clear and I’m sure if I heard it, the same thing was communicated to the necessary people through the appropriate channels that Cleveland was only open to that on a situation that made sense for everyone, where they’d be adding to LeBron as a piece into this rebuild. Not handing over the keys to the franchise as they have done in the past.”
Again, it’s a really bold take by Cleveland, one that could take themselves out of the running for LeBron. In the same podcast, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com acknowledged that the Cavs are looking to maintain cap space for next summer in case LeBron wants to join, but the more stipulations they seemingly place on that potential return, the less likely it seems he’ll be willing to jump ship.
Empowering Darvin Ham
Last season, the Lakers and head coach Frank Vogel seemed to be working on opposite paths. That made it surprising when the front office signed off on Vogel’s benching of Russell Westbrook late in a game midway through the year.
The hiring of Darvin Ham will, ideally, align the coaching staff and front office, which may be evidenced by the latest report from Buha in his mailbag piece that noted Ham would have more power to bench Westbrook this season.
Lakers head coach Darvin Ham will have more power to bench Westbrook down the stretch of games, according to league sources. (Former head coach Frank Vogel did so a few times last season). That could eventually extend to removing Westbrook from the starting lineup as well.
This revelation will only matter if Westbrook even remains on the team by the start of the season, something that seems less likely after he recently signed with agent Jeff Schwartz. Even if Westbrook isn’t around to be benched this coming campaign, it is encouraging Ham will be empowered to do so, if the situation does arise.