Despite the seemingly constant drama surrounding the Lakers, LeBron James still reportedly wants to end his career in purple and gold.
No matter what the state of the Lakers is, good or bad, the question that hangs over the franchise is LeBron James’ future. On top of retirement feeling like an increasing possibility with each season he plays, his contract also adds more uncertainty as he has a player option after this season.
It’s not the first time the Lakers have had to deal with these questions and, potentially, may not be the last either. And while few really know what LeBron’s thought process is as he tends to keep things pretty close to the vest, the signs aren’t pointing toward him leaving.
On his post-trade deadline episode of The Lowe Post podcast, Zach Lowe of ESPN revealed that, for now, LeBron appears to want to remain in LA.
“On LeBron, look, I can’t sit here and be like ‘Oh yeah, I know what LeBron wants out of life.’ Everything I’ve heard for years, including today, is if he has his druthers, he would like to finish his career with the Lakers. There are pipe dream scenarios out there where like ‘Philly has all this cap space. Could he opt in and ask for a trade to Philly?’ I haven’t that those things are real. I think he wants to finish his career a Laker.
I think he will probably opt in. As [Brian Windhorst] said, is he really opting out of $51 million? I think if you slow down and zoom out, winning that title in 2020, I think this whole thing feels different if they don’t have that. He came to LA and he got a fourth ring, he got a ring for the Lakers. If he’s able to feel at peace with like ‘I might just be on a good team, not a great one if I stay with the Lakers for the rest of my career.’ If he’s able to feel that — and I don’t know if he is — I think that title is why. And if you talk to people around him, that title really changes the perception of how maybe everyone feels about what this Lakers run is and could be going forward.”
Now, wanting to finish his career with the Lakers does not mean he will. And the Lakers have made that decision tough at times.
However, this situation with the Lakers certainly isn’t dire. And when LeBron really is upset and wants a situation to change or to get out of one, he can be a lot louder and more disruptive than he has been this year.
If anything, it’s been surprising how much patience and understanding LeBron has shown this season. Realistically, with injuries playing such a big role in this season, there has been a lot out of the Lakers control.
LeBron is also at least partially responsible for the Lakers being in their current situation after playing a notable role in pushing the franchise to trade for Russell Westbrook. And, again to his credit, it seems he has more or less realized that.
It certainly would help things if the Lakers could pull off the big trade they’re now positioned for heading into the draft. Adding a Donovan Mitchell, for example, would drastically change the circumstances for the Lakers and how LeBron feels about the team and franchise.
But, ultimately, this hasn’t felt like a basketball decision for a while when it comes to LeBron staying in Los Angeles. He has long owned a house in LA even before playing for the Lakers, he has kids in school in LA and there’s a non-zero chance Bronny plays at USC another season after his health scare this year.
Family means quite a bit to him and it’s hard to imagine he leaves them in Los Angeles and goes and plays somewhere else in the country without them at this stage in his life. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine him uprooting his family again to move them across the country either.
The Lakers should feel some pressure to get things right again and compete for a title, but it also feels like there’s a lot of leeway with LeBron that might not have existed there earlier in his career.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.