When LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, the surprise was not so much about his decision but the terms of his contract. He committed at least three years to the franchise and did not have a no-trade clause.
The lack of an NTC has had some publicly wondering if it made sense for the Lakers to trade their superstar after a disastrous first season in Los Angeles. While that thought will likely never come to fruition, it seems as though there was a time when it might have.
The subject of moving James, however, was contemplated by the Lakers, a team source said, weeks before [ESPN analyst Jeff] Van Gundy aired it. When rumors engulfed the team at the February trade deadline that it was willing to trade anyone other than James to acquire All-Star forward Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, James’ agent, Rich Paul, was widely accused of spreading those rumors because Davis is also one of his clients. Paul denied to B/R that he leaked the Lakers’ interest in Davis, but [Lakers owner Jeanie] Buss suspected otherwise and was furious. The idea of terminating the franchise’s relationship with Paul by moving James at least crossed Buss’ mind, the team source said, and Paul was made aware of that. That prompted Paul to reach out to Buss to clear the air, and whatever ill will existed supposedly dissipated. At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a few weeks later, Buss blamed the media for making the rumors public.
(We will note here that with something as major as this, it’s best to take everything with a grain of salt, especially if it’s not reported by a prominent news breaker or Lakers beat writer.)
There is a line of logic to follow that would lead you to the Lakers trading away their best player in a decade. They could gather more assets to continue rebuilding around their young core while being free from the pressure and drama that James’ presence creates.
But it would be an awful look for one of the premier franchises in the NBA to give up on trying to win with the best player in the world after only one year.
Buss is clearly frustrated with the constant leaks coming out of the Lakers front office, a new development under team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka. Their trade discussions regarding Davis were wildly public and are rumored to have affected team morale, as one would expect. The constant leaks have led to other parties in the organization (such as the coaching staff) to likely put out their own rumors to deflect blame to someone else. Even this news coming out now from within the organization after Buss’ very clear frustrations is concerning.
This whole season has been a disaster for the Lakers, especially during and after the trade deadline. Their frustrations boiling over to the point of even discussing the idea of moving LeBron James is just the icing on the cake.