Can Lakers make similar dedication LeBron James made to them?

By Melissa Rohlin
FOX Sports activities NBA Author

The guessing sport round LeBron James‘ future got here to an finish Wednesday when information broke that he agreed on a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The deal features a 15 p.c commerce kicker and will enhance to greater than $110 million with an increase within the wage cap, as first reported by ESPN. His contract now runs via the 2023-24 season and features a participant possibility for 2024-2025 when his son, Bronny, will grow to be draft eligible.

It is a hefty wage for a 37-year-old who turns 38 in December. However James has proven no indicators of slowing down throughout his tenure with the Lakers. Final season, he performed MVP-caliber basketball and was the runner-up for the scoring title with 30.3 factors a sport regardless of the Lakers lacking the playoffs with a dismal document of 33-49.

James signing a contract extension is fascinating on a number of fronts.

LeBron James, Lakers conform to two-year, $97.1 million extension

LeBron James, Lakers agree to two-year, $97.1 million extension

Emmanuel Acho, Pleasure Taylor and Ric Bucher react to the information.

It permits James to concentrate on resurrecting the Lakers with out him doubtlessly suffocating beneath a noxious fog of rumors, a detrimental sport we noticed him play final season when his each phrase was scrutinized.

There was the time he praised Oklahoma Metropolis proprietor Sam Presti throughout All-Star weekend (which had everybody questioning whether or not he was taking a shot at Lakers GM Rob Pelinka) or the time he informed The Athletic that “the door’s not closed” on him enjoying in Cleveland once more (which made everybody marvel if that was a harbinger of what was to return).

James needed to play fixed protection off the court docket final season, an exhausting prospect for a man who already needed to carry the Lakers on it whereas Anthony Davis was compromised by accidents and Russell Westbrook struggled to seek out a lot success together with his new squad.

This, at the least, will give James an opportunity to concentrate on basketball. To not point out, it is additionally clear that he loves Los Angeles. He posts limitless movies on Instagram of him singing alongside to his music as he cruises town’s streets or as he relaxes in his sun-drenched yard. He typically mocks his haters and implies his happiness is impenetrable primarily based on his high quality of life.

Leaping ship would’ve meant leaving one of many prime markets within the league and all it has to supply a participant of his caliber, yanking his three children out of their faculties and bailing on a proud franchise that simply suffered their most mortifying season ever, all of which clearly would’ve left a dent on his way of life and profession. 

Now, James has at the least two pictures at main the Lakers to greatness as soon as once more, all whereas having fun with the perks of a metropolis he enjoys.

Lakers reportedly unwilling to commerce belongings for Kyrie Irving

Lakers reportedly unwilling to trade assets for Kyrie Irving

Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless react to this report.

For the Lakers, the contract extension is intriguing as a result of it reveals their deep dedication in him regardless of him getting older. There have been calls from followers and analysts alike for the crew to commerce him — and though James reportedly does not have a no-trade clause in his contract, it is clear that the crew shouldn’t be taking place that route.

And actually, why ought to they?

In 2020, James led the Lakers to a championship. In 2020-2021, he posted a career-high in assists. And final season, he was their one saving grace, placing up a number of 50-point performances in a season when the Lakers seemingly could not preserve Davis on the court docket — and seemingly could not get Westbrook off it quick sufficient.

The Lakers gave Kobe Bryant a large contract extension within the sundown of his profession (two-year, 48.5 million) regardless of him struggling an Achilles damage that he by no means fairly totally rebounded from. As a corporation, they clearly worth loyalty to their stars, and with James’ new contract, he’ll be with the Lakers for at the least six seasons, his second-longest stint behind his seven-straight seasons with the Cavaliers. 

There is a college of thought that believes it was unwise to present James a contract extension of this measurement. It will’ve been one factor if he had taken much less cash to present the Lakers extra flexibility to construct out their roster (a la James Harden in Philly), however that clearly wasn’t within the playing cards.

So, whereas the Lakers extending James shines gentle on his future, it does not do a lot to light up their very own. They’ve clearly been attempting to buy Westbrook and his $47.1 million contract, and it is extremely unlikely that is going to vary, particularly contemplating James and Westbrook did not publicly communicate after they attended the identical current Lakers sport at Summer season League in Las Vegas.

Even when the Lakers commerce Westbrook for one more expiring contract, Davis and James will earn greater than a mixed $86 million in 2023-2024, which might make buying a 3rd star in 2023 difficult. It is integral that they get one thing of worth again for Westbrook’s massive wage, whether or not that is Kyrie Irving or a mix of starting-caliber function gamers.

Then once more, the Lakers did not have a 3rd star after they received all of it in 2020, so if they may handle to improve their supporting forged, maybe they might be contenders but once more.

Now, James and the Lakers simply want to determine a method to be good once more. James reached the NBA Finals eight-straight seasons from 2011-2018 earlier than becoming a member of the Lakers, the place he has missed the playoffs twice. 

Earlier than James turns 40, he has two extra pictures at attempting to guide the Lakers to greatness as soon as once more.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA author for FOX Sports activities. She beforehand coated the league for Sports activities Illustrated, the Los Angeles Occasions, the Bay Space Information Group and the San Antonio Categorical-Information. Observe her on Twitter at @melissarohlin.

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