The fact that LeBron James exited Cleveland for Los Angeles wasn’t a complete surprise. Rumors that James coveted joining the Lakers had been swirling around the league for quite a while. After all, he owns two multi-million dollar homes in L.A. His production company, Spring Hill Entertainment, is housed in Los Angeles also.
James has made it clear that he intends to be the next billion dollar athlete. To achieve that goal in a reasonable amount of time, he needs to be in Los Angeles or New York. Considering that both NY teams are hot garbage, the City of Angels was the obvious choice.
What made James’ move to Hollywood surprising is that it seemed to have come without a carefully orchestrated plan. When James left for the Miami Heat in 2010, it was to play alongside All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. When he returned to the Cavaliers in 2014, it was with Kyrie Irving on board and the assurance that Cavs would deal No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love (or another All-Star, should trade talks have fallen through with Minnesota).
This time around, James just decided to go. The hopes of playing alongside Paul George died when “PG-13” announced that he will re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder for four years and $137M. James reportedly sent Kevin Durant a text to try and woo the two-time NBA Finals MVP to the Lakers. I can’t imagine that Durant’s reply was anything other than 😂😂😂.
There’s still an outside chance that Magic Johnson and the Lakers could work out a trade with the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard. That appears unlikely though. The relationship between Leonard and the Spurs appears to have deteriorated past the point of no return.
Why would the Spurs then do Leonard a favor by sending him to Los Angeles to form a super team that would be on the Spurs’ schedule several times per year? Multiple reports suggest that the Spurs front office has told teams that it will only deal Leonard to the Eastern Conference.
That means, for now at least, James’ four-year, $145M signing is likely the only seismic move on the horizon for the Lakers. Keep in mind, James signed a four-year deal in Los Angeles. In Cleveland, he signed a series of short deals with player options in order to keep the pressure on the front-office to field a title-contending team.
The Lakers’ other moves this offseason seems to point to the idea that Johnson is not going all-out to chase a ring in the 2018-19 season. The Lakers agreed to a one-year, $9 million deal with Rajon Rondo (Pelicans). The team also will add Lance Stephenson (Pacers) on a one-year, $4.5 million contract and JaVale McGee (Warriors) on a one-year, league minimum deal.
Blended family of fans
Without another superstar on board, the best the Lakers can hope for is to finish somewhere between No. 3 and No. 5 in the Western Conference. They have zero chance to challenge the Warriors for supremacy in the West, especially after GSW’s latest blockbuster signing (more on that later).
The most interesting storyline for the Lakers may be how die-hard fans of James co-exist with die-hard Lakers fans. Ever since James and Kobe Bryant jockeyed for the unofficial title of best basketball player on the planet, many Lakers fans have despised James and vice versa.
It’s hilarious to watch so-called Lakers fans publicly pondering whether they can still support the team with James on board. It is equally as comical to see fans that pledged allegiance to James in Cleveland and Miami now contemplating their NBA fandom futures just because “LBJ” joined the Lakers.
Though the cakewalks in the Eastern Conference are over, Lakers fans and King James fans should be ecstatic to see James in L.A. James’ arrival in Los Angeles means that the Lakers are immediately relevant once again. The one person who can push LaVar Ball to the background is LeBron James. That’s great news for the Lakers. And the Lakers return to relevancy is great news for the NBA.
Boogie breaks free agency
While James had the internet buzzing Sunday night, it was DeMarcus Cousins who stole the show Monday. Cousins, a four-time All-Star who averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game last season for the New Orleans Pelicans, announced that he will sign with the Golden State Warriors.
Social media erupted with the news. Cousins’ addition means that the Warriors’ will field an All-Star at every single position of its starting unit. Heck, the other teams were already playing for second. The Warriors might as well trot out an All-Star team every night.
So how did the Warriors land Cousins? Is it just another case of an NBA superstar deciding, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?” Not if you believe Cousin’s side of the story.
According to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears, Cousins claimed that Pelicans GM Dell Demps informed Cousins that the team did not plan to re-sign him in free agency. Much of the reason was due to the fact that Cousins suffered a torn Achilles tendon during the season. The Pelicans, and several other teams across the league, were wary of spending big bucks on a big man coming off such a serious injury.
Cousins claimed he his agent had not received a single formal offer from a team this offseason. As teams with possible interest, and cap space, filled out their rosters, Cousins became resigned to the idea that his best move may be to sign a one-year, midlevel exception deal with a contender. He could then re-enter free agency in the 2019-20 season and land a long-term max deal once he proved that he had fully recovered from the injury.
After talking to the Warriors’ players, Cousins had his agent call the team’s GM to see if the team was interested in using its $5.3M on the All-Star center. And the rest is history.
Follow Ishmael and In the Clutch on Twitter @ishcreates.