Thursday marks the first day that LeBron James and the Lakers can negotiate a contract extension and while no deal has been agreed upon, the two sides have met. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, LeBron and agent Rich Paul met with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka on Thursday and had a “productive” meeting.
LeBron James and his representative Rich Paul of Klutch Sports met with Lakers VP of basketball ops and GM Rob Pelinka on Thursday regarding James’ eligible contract extension. Paul told ESPN the discussion was “productive” and both sides will continue a dialogue.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) August 4, 2022
The meeting ending without an extension isn’t necessarily a surprise. Considering the state of the Lakers’ roster and the plans that remain up in the air, LeBron was almost always going to take a wait-and-see approach.
In reality, it probably wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he used his extension negotiations as leverage to force the Lakers into a trade for Kyrie Irving, someone he wants in the purple and gold. LeBron has a history of using his contract status to hold front offices hostage, effectively, and force them into win-now moves as he did in Cleveland during his second tenure.
While James’ last extension came without any player options or no-trade clauses, it’s unlikely his new extension will offer the same leeway. With the Cavs, LeBron signed a series of two-year deals with a player option in year two that he would opt out of, forcing the franchise to keep making moves focused on the short term in order to remain competitive.
After a pair of lackluster seasons in which the Lakers fumbled the bag tremendously following a title in 2020, LeBron very well may use the leverage he has to attempt to keep the Lakers on track.
All of this is under the assumption he signs an extension this summer. Theoretically, LeBron could hold out on an extension, which he can sign anytime between now and the end of June next year, and play out the final year of his contract. It would serve to be a massive distraction to the team this season, but it’d be hard to blame LeBron for losing faith in the franchise.
It’s a situation with so many outcomes and ripple effects of those choices that it’s going to be the story to watch for the Lakers and the NBA in the coming weeks and months.
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