LeBron James will be a Laker for two more years after agreeing to a 1+1, $97.1 million extension with the team.
However, LeBron didn’t just sign the offer when it was first put in front of him on Aug. 4. The first meeting with Laker GM Rob Pelinka and coach Darvin Ham was more about roster upgrades and on-court strategy, not the extension. Now a new report from Jovan Buha of The Athletic echoes the idea LeBron is asking more of the Lakers.
The primary complication in James’ decision was that he has been privately adamant that the Lakers still need to improve the current roster and trade for superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, league sources have told The Athletic…. James’ commitment also puts the Lakers on the clock to rebuild a championship-level roster. As currently constructed, the Lakers aren’t championship contenders.
A trade that sends Russell Westbrook to Brooklyn (or a third team) and brings Kyrie Irving and maybe Joe Harris to the Lakers remains the team’s fastest path back to contention. Pelinka and the Lakers have tried to make that deal — and are willing to put both of their tradable first-round picks in the deal — something ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski echoed on the network Wednesday. However, he added, “that’s not something the Nets have been interested in.” The buzz in league circles has been that more than just picks, the Nets want players who can help them now in any deal (the Lakers have little to offer along those lines).
Maybe when (if?) Kevin Durant is finally traded, the Nets would be open to an Irving trade, although reports are he has come to terms with staying with the Nets for the season. Whatever happens with the Nets, it’s not going to happen soon.
It looks like the Lakers will head to training camp with the roster as it stands — meaning with Russell Westbrook. That means more drama around the Lakers, but the real test this season — and the measure of how good the Lakers will ultimately be — is how Anthony Davis plays. Ham wants to run the offense through Davis and is also counting on him to anchor the defense. Is Davis up for this? Can he be the best player on a contender over a season? The Lakers are about to find out.