Reports from last week noted that LeBron James met with the Lakers on the first day the two sides could officially negotiate a contract extension (because surely they wouldn’t have done that sooner). On Monday, new details about the meeting emerged and, surprisingly, a contract extension appears to have been a topic on the backburner from both sides.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported at length the details of the meeting that included LeBron James and his agent Rich Paul, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and new head coach Darvin Ham.
And while contract dialogue was broached, the majority of the hour-long meeting was about expressing concerns, and hearing out strategies and opinions to assure there wouldn’t be a repeat of last season’s epic failure, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Realistically, this could be spun as either a positive or a negative. If you’re a pessimist, you could say that the two sides having minimal conversations about a contract and lots of conversations about the team next season and the need to avoid disaster would be LeBron wanting to see how things go before committing.
However, the positive spin on it includes the reports about LeBron being entrenched in Los Angeles and all signs pointing to him wanting to finish his career in Southern California. When it comes to the meeting itself, LeBron not being overly concerned about coming to an agreement on his deal would suggest he’s comfortable handling a potential extension further down the road.
When it comes to what was actually discussed in that meeting, all parties involved were ensuring there would not be a repeat of last season.
James, sources said, drilled home the importance of consistent competitiveness and cohesion, noting that last season’s team didn’t give themselves a chance on many nights. The focus for the future Hall of Famer is competing every night in order to give themselves a chance to compete for a championship.
Ham agreed with James and reiterated that his main objectives are to hold everyone accountable and foster an atmosphere of selflessness, sources said. He voiced that defensive tenacity needs to be picked up all across the roster and also forewarned that players would have to play new roles and if he sensed reluctance, he wouldn’t hesitate to remove them from the game, sources said.
Particularly in the latter stages of last season, the Lakers played like a team that had fully given up on its season. But the early part of the season too, which included multiple losses to the tanking Thunder, showcased how much the team did not compete consistently on a night-to-night basis.
Whether that was a result of Frank Vogel, the players on the roster, or some combination of both, it made the Lakers a supremely frustrating team to root for last season. If Ham can bring the accountability he stressed in the Lakers’ meeting of the minds to the roster this season, that alone would make it a more enjoyable season to watch, and likely a more successful one.
And if the Lakers are able to piece together a more successful season and be a competitor in the Western Conference, that would seemingly guarantee that LeBron would eventually sign his extension and return to the Lakers next season.
For now though, we’ll just have to wait and see what the team looks like when the season does finally start.