Despite the opportunity to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers or join a championship contender like the Philadelphia 76ers or Houston Rockets, LeBron James ultimately signed a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
As James only signed one-year contracts in his second stint with the Cavaliers, the four-year deal signaled a commitment to and understanding of patience with president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.
Although Paul George re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors, James still had the Lakers young core and a projected $38 million in cap space for 2019 free agency to look forward to.
Prior to the Tyson Chandler signing, the Lakers were struggling and James revealed it nearly broke him, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports:
“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”
Fortunately for the Lakers, James remembered the team’s long-term goal and the young core has responded since:
“I had to regroup and remember this is a young team,” James told Yahoo Sports. “We’re playing some good ball right now and we’re starting to build some good habits. That’s all that matters right now.”
Coming off three championships in eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances, James acknowledged he needed to be more patient heading into the 2018-19 NBA season. However, after a recent loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the 33-year-old did warn what could happen if he lost his patience.
With eight new players, the reality is James knew what he signed up for. As Johnson and Pelinka are looking to build a sustainable championship contender, James will need to lead the young core in the extremely competitive Western Conference in Year 1 without a guarantee of another All-Star player joining him in Los Angeles.