The talk around the NBA since LeBron James joined the Los Angeles Lakers is that he doesn’t have a true sidekick. The Lakers surrounded the star forward with talented but young players and veterans past their respective primes. But The King has reportedly stayed patient and was willing to commit to a four-year contract despite no guarantee of having a second star.
Of course, most people are not buying that James will be content hoping for Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball to develop into All-NBA talents. According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, people around the NBA believe that James specifically wants to team up with Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (h/t Christian Rivas of Silver Screen and Roll for the transcript):
“LeBron wants to play with Damian Lillard. He’s one of the guys he’d like to play with and that’s chatter around the league. It has been since before LeBron signed with the Lakers, it was one of the many indicators that he was heading there.”
The issue here is that Lillard is not a free agent until 2021 (when he would be 31 years old). The Lakers have max cap space to use this upcoming summer. Not doing so would be seen as a failure by the front office.
So the only way to get Lillard to Los Angeles anytime soon would be via trade and that seems plenty far-fetched. As we say with the Kawhi Leonard situation, teams in the Western Conference are not too keen on trading their star players within their half of the league. And as we say with the Paul George (and currently with Jimmy Butler) situation, organizations are not hell-bent on trading disgruntled stars to their preferred destinations.
It would take a treasure chest of assets to pry Lillard away from the Blazers. Maybe that changes if Portland has a disappointing season. The Lakers have stayed the course for now and committed to their young players. James admittedly did not put pressure on trading the young players for Leonard before he signed on. But if this season goes awry, who’s to say he will remain patient?