LeBron James has just one year left on his current deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, as both sides brace for contract negotiations this summer.
James said he can see himself playing in L.A. until he retires after sparking rumors of a potential exit with Cleveland Cavaliers reunion comments during the 2022 All-Star Weekend.
But it’s uncertain whether the four-time NBA champion will sign a two-year extension worth $97 million once he becomes eligible in August or decide to play out his current contract.
During his exit interview, James dodged questions about his future, saying Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) rules prevent him from discussing the negotiations.
“The conversation hasn’t been talked about and technically because the Collective Bargaining Agreement cannot be discussed until later on in the year,” he said.
“I know it’s out there, but we can’t even, myself and Rich [Paul] can’t even talk with Rob [Pelinka] or the front office at all because of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. When we get to that point, we’ll see.”
Lakers Vice President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Rob Pelinka used the same excuse when asked about James’ contract extension. However, Pelinka said the Lakers understand James views the franchise as “a long-term home.”
“The partnership we’ve had with LeBron and his representatives has been great,” the general manager said.
“Just a gold standard and we’ve appreciated his professionalism and directness. The amount of conversations we have over the course of the season is really meaningful and every indication we’ve received is that he sees the Lakers as his home.
“The CBA is very specific about what we can and can’t say about player negotiations, we have to be very mindful and follow those rules, so I can’t talk about his future contract status. But the feeling is that he loves being a Laker and sees this as a long-term home and that’s what’s been made loud and clear.”
According to a report by Sam Amick of The Athletic, James may decide to play out the final year of his deal as opposed to signing a max extension:
Based on my conversations with people who have a strong sense of such things, it’s clear James is considering playing out this contract rather than signing a two-year extension this summer. If flexibility and freedom are the goals here, James (who is owed $44.4 million next season) could go back to the year-by-year approach he perfected in his second Cleveland stop.
As he has made abundantly clear of late, he’ll do everything he can to play with his son, Bronny Jr., when and if he makes the jump to the NBA (in the summer of 2024, at the earliest). Signing one-year deals is a surefire way to avoid any contractual obstacles to that dream scenario. And if he has to take less than max money at some point to make it happen, then so be it.
Answers will come this summer when James decides to sign the extension or not, but if he doesn’t, then it may be time for L.A. to start planning for the future after James’ departure.
James says roster decisions won’t be up to him
James said he has been thinking about the ways the Lakers can improve their roster ahead of the next season. However, he pointed out that in the end, the front office will have the final say on personnel decisions.
“It’s human nature to automatically start thinking about the roster and what it could look like and how we could obviously have a roster that brings in more wins. That’s the most important thing. That’s the job that we in,” James said.
“I’ve started to think about it a little bit, but it’s not solely on me, obviously. We definitely want to be better. We want to be better next year and that’s the most important thing for the summer.”
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