Rumor: If Lakers don’t upgrade roster, LeBron James could leave

Robert Laberge/Getty Images

The Lakers just wasted a year of LeBron James‘ prime with a roster construction he described as “[fart noise].”

The good news for the Lakers: They still have the tools to try again this summer. They’ll have max cap space. They have the No. 4 pick. They have talented young players like Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart to use in a trade.

But the stakes also might be especially high.

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times on ESPN LA:

I’m hearing that, if they whiff on free agency, and if they whiff on a trade – which I don’t know how likely that is, but if that happens, they’ve got big trouble with LeBron. Why would LeBron – I mean, the LeBron era could be over before it starts here.

I heard this for the first time yesterday. Somebody very connected said “You know what, if they whiff, LeBron’s going to say either, ‘I’m out of here’ or ‘Get me out of here,’ or the Lakers better just might as well just get him out of here.”

LeBron has denied that the Lakers must repair trust with him.

This seems like an easy thing for people to speculate about. LeBron left the Heat after he thought they weren’t committed enough to winning. He often pressured the Cavaliers to do more. Why wouldn’t he make similar demands in Los Angeles?

But he also locked in for three years with the Lakers, longer than he did on any contract in his return to Cleveland. That’s a lot of trust in a team that has struggled for years. Maybe he did it because, as much as he still wants to win, that’s no longer his sole focus.

At this point, he could prioritize the Los Angeles lifestyle and proximity to Hollywood. Those factors aren’t vanishing, no matter whom the Lakers sign or trade for this summer.

Maybe Plaschke’s “very connected” source knows something. That’s what makes this intriguing.

But this stands against a taller pile of evidence that LeBron will just stick it out with the Lakers.