The cat is out of the bag on the first day of the NBA Free Agency Moratorium: The King will be taking his talents to Los Angeles. Klutch Sports Group, the agency that represents LeBron, released a statement on Twitter earlier today, “LeBron James, four time NBA MVP, three time NBA finals MVP, fourteen time NBA All Star, and two time Olympic gold medalist has agreed to a four year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.”
This free agency was much less of a circus than the first time LeBron left Cleveland in the summer of 2010 with “The Decision”. This time there was no hour TV special with Jim Gray that sent the entire city of Cleveland into a whirlwind. This was something that LeBron obviously knew he wanted to do and there was no point in putting anyone (fans or teams) through the drama of a week long recruiting trip. Cleveland will also be much more understanding this time since LeBron delivered on his promise of bringing a championship to “The Land” with the memorable comeback from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in 2015.
The question now is, who will be playing with LeBron? Paul George has already agreed to stay in OKC with Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. There is no way LeBron made a decision to go to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011, if there were not wheels in motion to bring in All Star caliber talent like he did when he went back to Cleveland in 2014.
Could this push the Lakers to be more aggressive in trading for Kawhi Leonard by offering the Spurs something they can’t refuse? Will LeBron’s signing in LA attract any other free agents to the Lakers? Will Lonzo Ball, last year’s 2nd overall pick, be ready to play this season after tearing his meniscus?
As it stands now, the 2018 Lakers roster consists of Lonzo Ball, Thomas Bryant, Tyler Ennis, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Ivica Zubac, and a washed up Luol Deng making $18 million. That is hardly a group that LeBron looks forward to playing with at age 33. Look for the Lakers to be making some big trades and signing before the start of the season.
This is uncharted territory for The King. LeBron has never played in the Western Conference since he came into the NBA in 2003. The Eastern Conference has had, by all accounts, a much easier path to the Finals for the last 15 years, so it will be interesting to see LeBron enter a monster playoff field that should include: the reigning champion Golden State Warriors with the Hampton 5, the Houston Rockets with Chris Paul and the reigning MVP James Harden, and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Big 3 of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Should be fun.
UPDATE: The Lakers are set to sign Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson & Rajon Rondo. The have renounced the rights to Julius Randle and may waive Luol Deng as well to spread the $36 million owed to him over the next 5 seasons to open up more salary cap space.