As expected, LeBron James intends to decline his $35.6 million player option for the 2018-19 season. With that, James will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 for the third time in his career.
In 2010, James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, announcing his decision on an ESPN special that irked many. Then in 2014, James, in a much more subdued manner, revealed he was returning to the Cavaliers.
How James will make his next decision public is not known. Which team he will sign with is also a mystery, but it’s believed the Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers have the inside track to landing the 14-time All-Star.
James opting to reach free agency works in the Lakers’ favor, as they can sign him outright rather than need to complete a trade, which would make potentially acquiring Kawhi Leonard as well all the more problematic.
According to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, James has a strong affinity for playing with the Lakers:
James has a home in Los Angeles, as do his chief business associates, and the allure of playing for a historic franchise like the Lakers appeals to him.
Last December, the 33-year-old said the environment at Staples Center is one his favorites, particularly for games on Christmas Day.
Whether that factor and what the Lakers can offer by way of a competitive roster, will be enough to lure James remains to be seen. Although he might be interested in joining the team, James has also made it clear he is focused on being in position to play for championships.
Even if they were to sign James, the Lakers, as constructed don’t meet that benchmark. Working in their favor, of course, is L.A. could sign Paul George as well or trade for Leonard, which would signal the end of their rebuild.
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