For as much excitement as there is about the Los Angeles Lakers rebuilding around Lonzo Ball, the team’s true path forward won’t be revealed until this summer, when they will try to recruit LeBron James and other top talents in free agency.
If the Lakers can woo one of those players, their timeline will be altered significantly, as the team will no longer be as reliant on its young players growing into the types of contributors ready to fuel a championship team on their own.
James, or someone such as Paul George, would instantly makes those players’ lives easier and allow them to contribute in smaller, more efficient ways.
The most recent rumor involving James and the Lakers implied that he wanted to team up with Dallas Mavericks center and soon-to-be free agent Nerlens Noel, who shares an agent with James, in L.A.
While that whisper surely won’t be the last one regarding James’ intentions, it won’t be known what direction he’s truly leaning until the summer when he makes his decision.
However, while he wasn’t commenting on his own free agency intentions directly, James did make a pretty good case to Dave McMenamin of ESPN as to why players around the league will want to play with Ball in the years to come:
“The kid hasn’t said anything,” James told ESPN when asked about the hype surrounding Ball. “It’s been everybody else. So, I love his humility. He goes out, every time someone asks him a question, he says, ‘This is not about me, man. I just want to win. I don’t care about what I did.’ I seen he had a triple-double one game and they lost. He was like, ‘I don’t care. We lost.’
“So, can I draw any parallel to my experience? I mean, of course. I guess when you’re drafted to a franchise, they want you to kind of be the savior. And it takes a while. I mean, listen, man, this guy is 20-something games into his pro career. S— doesn’t happen [that fast]. Here it goes again, it goes back to my instant oatmeal [quote]: Everybody wants it right away. Can he play ball? Absolutely. The kid can play ball. Do guys want to play with him? Absolutely, because it’s a guy who is not about him. It’s about the success of the team. And he gives the ball up, and he passes the ball, and there’s energy behind the ball.”
Now it’s important to note, again, that James is clearly speaking in generalities about players around the league and their theoretical reasoning for why it might be fun or rewarding to play alongside Ball, not openly spelling out that it’s what he wants to do.
That being said, James is very aware of the power of his voice and actions. From every carefully curated subtweet to his decision to appear courtside at a Lakers’ Summer League game while speculation about his next destination was at it’s peak, James knows the power of his voice and actions.
Moreover, it was telling he chose now to address the subject, right before the Lakers are set to take on his Cleveland Cavaliers. That doesn’t mean it’s a certainty James will end up in L.A. this summer, far from it.
Ask New York Knicks fans if James always follows through on his free-agency flirting. Still, it means James at least isn’t heavily opposed to people talking about him and the Lakers joining forces. That is definitely a solid start, especially given the team’s difficulty even getting meetings with top free agents over the last few years.
It’s also no longer outlandish to suggest that James sees a bit of himself in Ball, seeming to appreciate the similar team-first mindset Ball seems to carry himself with. Again, that doesn’t mean it’ll be enough to sway LeBron to join the Lakers, but it’s not nothing.