On Thursday, Aug. 4, the Lakers can and will offer LeBron James a contract extension of two years, $97.1 million.
If LeBron doesn’t sign it immediately — and there’s no reason to believe he will, LeBron has always been patient and used his leverage — the speculation will start. Speculation that will ignore the fact that LeBron is happy in Los Angeles, his family is entrenched and in schools in the city, his post-career focus on his entertainment empire is in the city, and he is unlikely to leave.
A lot of that speculation will focus on the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have a strong young core with Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen and others (a stronger core than when he came back from Miami) and the Cavs would have the cap space to sign LeBron outright without giving up any of those players. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has already brought that possibility front and center.
Except, the Cavaliers are not thinking like that, reports Joe Varden of The Athletic, who is as tuned in as anyone to the Cavaliers.
The Cavs are not proceeding with the intention of getting LeBron for a third time… I think family weighs too heavily into this, and the easiest move for him is to stay with the Lakers.
The Cavaliers are building something of their own, something organic that can be special, and that fans are getting behind. LeBron changes that culture and dynamic. Yes, he is just a kid from Akron who will always be welcomed in the city — as was evident at the last All-Star Game — but there are doubts around the league the Cavaliers’ front office wants to mess with what they are building for the short-term gains a 38-year-old (by then) LeBron brings.
The smart money is on LeBron and the Lakers agreeing to a 1+1 extension, keeping him with the team through 2024 but giving him the option of leaving that summer to play with his son Bronny, who would be draft eligible that year. If LeBron leaves the Lakers, his son would be the reason.
Not the Cavaliers.