At this point, it feels fairly certain that LeBron James won’t actually be retiring this offseason, no matter how shocking and surprising his comments were in the moment. The debates about what he actually meant by those comments can rage on, whether they were a leverage play or a diversionary tactic.
But retirement is in the cards in some capacity, and one of the discussions surrounding it was the financial implications for both LeBron and the Lakers. If he does retire, how does that impact the Lakers and could LeBron sit out a season and come back next year?
Enter cap guru Eric Pincus, who detailed how things would play out in his recent piece for Bleacher Report. One of the suggestions was that LeBron would retire this year and sit out a season much like Michael Jordan retired in the middle of his career before returning next season to play with his son, Bronny.
By rule, that is a move that would be allowed as, if LeBron retired, he would have to sit out the season before he could return.
If James decides it’s over, the likely step would have L.A. putting James on the NBA’s voluntary retired list. He would give up his salary and wouldn’t be allowed to sign with another team for a year, should he later change his mind.
Now, whether teams or the Lakers would react well to LeBron retiring for a season is another matter but probably not one that is realistic enough to debate those plausible consequences. It would theoretically be on the table. Having said that, all reports are that LeBron will be back next season at the very least.
Again, though, if he were to retire, what happens to the Lakers' cap space? Well, the Lakers would simply have that as cap room this offseason. LeBron is set to make in the neighborhood of $47 million next season which would come off the books and allow the Lakers to build around Anthony Davis and the rest of the team’s core.
From there, there would be different things the Lakers could do to increase their cap space if they so chose, but having nearly $50 million come off the books would certainly change things.
Ultimately, none of this appears to be issues that will come up this season. But at some point, LeBron will retire (I’m pretty sure), and this will matter eventually. Whether he’s with the Lakers or not at that point remains to be seen, but it’s all information worth pocketing for a later date.
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