Latest posts by Ross Pickering (see all)
Today the Twitter-verse was alive with chatter about the possibility of LeBron James becoming a Laker in 2014. Why? Because ESPN released an article, including quotes from a rival general manager, suggesting that the Lakers were setting themselves up to make a run at James in 2014.
The truth is, this isn’t breaking news. It’s nothing new. I myself have explored this possibility numerous times, including back in August when I asked the following question on Facebook: “Would you welcome LeBron James to the Lakers in 2014?”
The fact of that matter is that Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers know exactly what they’re doing. If/when they re-sign Dwight Howard next summer, they’ll have just him and Steve Nash on the books in 2014, meaning they’ll have a lot of cap room.
Who’s the big name free agent in 2014? LeBron James – if he opts out of his current deal, that is. It’s no coincidence that the Lakers have a hell of a lot of cap room that summer.
It’s also the year that Kobe Bryant could retire. His deal runs out in 2014. He could call it quits and the Lakers would be looking for another star to plug into their line-up next to Howard. Or, maybe Kobe would re-sign with the Lakers on a cheaper deal? He’d have the chance to play alongside Howard, James and Nash. Kobe’s even said LeBron would be the perfect guy for him to play with, but that’s another story for another day.
This LeBron-to-L.A. talk isn’t even about Kobe possibly retiring. It’s about the simple fact that Los Angeles are setting themselves up to make major moves in the summer of 2014.
Now, I know right now we have (possibly) one of the greatest rosters ever put together; at least on paper. I know all our Christmases came at once when we managed to land Nash and Howard in the same off-season. But the truth is that the current roster we have will only be together for a fairly short amount of time.
That’s not disrespecting the current roster or being a “greedy Lakers fan” – it’s just the truth.
You want me to ignore the fact that the only guys who will be under contract in 2014 are Nash and Howard? You want me to ignore the fact that LeBron will be a free agent that summer? Why should I ignore something that’s staring me right in the face?
It’s the proverbial “elephant in the room”. It’s not as if this is 1996 and young bloods such as a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant and a 24-year-old Shaquille O’Neal are joining the team. Yes, Howard is only 26, but the rest of the starting five have a combined age of 136. It’s not a line-up that we’re going to see for years to come.
It’s going to be fun to watch the Lakers and I absolutely cannot wait for this season to begin, but this group of “rock stars” (as Metta World Peace calls them) will disband in 2014 and that is inevitable.
Sure, Kobe might re-sign, but that’s not set in stone. Will MWP? How about Pau Gasol? Probably not. Changes are going to come one way or another.
I’ve seen a lot of angry tweets. A lot of people don’t want to see LeBron as a Laker. The reason? I think it’s because there’s a lot of Kobe fans out there – as opposed to straight up Laker fans. LeBron is seen as Kobe’s modern day nemesis. But by who? The media and the fans.
Kobe and LeBron have never met in the NBA Finals. That’s where true rivalries are made. Although, Kevin Durant and LeBron worked out together this summer after battling it out in June. Times have changed. Guys are friendly with each other now. They team up to form super teams. Like it or not, it’s the way the NBA is going.
Now, despite what some of you may think, I’ve never been the biggest LeBron James fan. In fact, in the Cleveland days I grew to almost despise him. And then when he went along with “The Decision” and the “Not one, not two, not three…” silliness? My “hate” for him grew even more so.
But, last season he was all about business. He seemed to separate himself from some in his inner-circle who probably gave him bad advice. He was all about the job in hand. He silenced the critics, hitting big shots down the stretch and lead his team to the ring.
And then there was his spectacular play in London. The fact of the matter is, you can’t deny his talent. I still may not be his biggest fan, but I don’t care about the name on the back of the jersey, I care about the name on the front.
I want the best possible players out there on the court wearing purple and gold. After all, isn’t the aim of the game to win?
There’s no question the Lakers have “The King” as their prime target in 2014. Jim Buss all but confirmed this in an interview with Kevin Ding yesterday:
“We purposely ended all contracts that year,” Buss said. “I can’t talk about Kobe (Bryant), but this is what he signed till. So basically we put everything to that, and we want to make a big splash in the free-agent market if we get to that spot. So we designed the contracts and the players and our future all around that.”
Okay, so he didn’t mention LeBron’s name – and he can’t, according to NBA rules – but he might as well have done:
“Yeah, depending on the free agents that year,” Buss said. “We would basically, money-wise, be able to sign the top free agent – maybe even two. I don’t know the numbers exactly, because we’re not privy to what the cap is and how much room we have, but it’s going to be close to two of the top free agents that year.”
And at the end of the day, why wouldn’t they want him? Not only is he one of the greatest players on the planet, but he’s also great for business, just like Dwight.
Would LeBron even want to leave Miami in 2014? Who knows. We do know that Dwyane Wade will be nearly 33; his game is already declining now. Chris Bosh will be 30. A 39-year-old Ray Allen will probably call it a career.
Nothing’s impossible. We didn’t think that Nash would want to become a Laker after all the battles he had with Los Angeles in the past. He even said himself, just weeks before signing here, that it would be hard to wear a Lakers jersey.
LeBron is also not currently signed to a max contract in Miami, due to a great job by Pat Riley, as he basically managed to get their Big Three to take a fairly large pay cut.
LeBron could come to L.A. and sign a max contract and play alongside a 28-year-old Dwight Howard in the prime of his career. And, just as Howard will find out, Los Angeles is the perfect place to earn extra dollars from endorsement deals. Let’s not forget that LeBron is a businessman as well as a basketball player.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the thought of playing for the Lakers has popped up in LeBron’s head over the years. The Lakers have had some of the greatest players in the history of the game pass through their doors. We know LeBron adores Michael Jordan. How would he like to step out in the purple and gold and bring back memories of Magic Johnson as his 6’8″ frame runs the break and finds Howard with the no-look assist?
James also had L.A. on his list of possible destinations in the weeks leading up to “The Decision”, so there’s obviously a level of interest there.
Just as Los Angeles made sense for Dwight, it makes sense for LeBron.
Of course, we just picked up Dwight this summer and he probably has dreams of having his own team, though Howard knows that you need help to win in this league today. He learned that in Orlando.
In 2014, Dwight would have two years under his belt in Los Angeles; he’d be more established as a Laker than LeBron. If James did sign with L.A., I don’t see him taking the shine from Dwight like he almost has from Wade in Miami.
For me, deep down, that Miami team is still Wade’s. LeBron turned up on Dwyane’s team to win a championship. The problem though, is that Wade’s game is declining and his persona and brand isn’t like that of LeBron’s. Therefore, LBJ is taking the spotlight away from Wade and more and more it’s appearing that the Heat belong to James.
I don’t think that would happen in Los Angeles. Dwight is a big figure both on-and-off the court. He works the media and he works the fans. Just like his huge blocks and rim-rattling dunks, the big smile he flashes on a regular basis draws attention. Wade kind of hides in the shadow of LeBron these days. That wouldn’t happen with D12 in town.
It also seems to me that LeBron isn’t afraid of change and likes new challenges. He’s already led the Heat to a championship. He proved the doubters wrong. Why not try and do the same in La La Land?
But, it never hurts to speculate. It’s fun. Speculation and sports go hand-in-hand. It’s like asking, “If Kobe and MJ played a one-on-one during their prime, who would win?” or “Could Wilt Chamberlain be as dominant in today’s NBA?” – are we disrespecting those guys by bringing them up in hypothetical conversations?
So, yes, I’m going to enjoy this current group of Hall of Famers and their incredible personalities. I’m going to enjoy the next two years of Lakers basketball.
I’m hopefully going to watch them win a couple of championships, too (wait, isn’t that hypothetical? I hope I’m not disrespecting somebody!) but I’m not going to ignore the fact that the Lakers will make a run at LeBron James in 2014.
It’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room.