The Houston Rockets have locked down Chris Paul for the next four years, and rumors floating around the NBA indicate that LeBron James could now be next.
Just minutes after NBA free agency began at the stroke of midnight on Sunday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Rockets had re-signed their All-Star point guard to a four-year, $160 million max contract. The move ensures that the Rockets stay atop the Western Conference, and could have much wider implications.
The other big free agency prize, Paul George, also had a short stay as a free agent as he re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder. There had been mounting rumors ahead of NBA free agency that George could be headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, with LeBron James joining him. The new contract with the Thunder has dealt a blow to the Lakers’ hopes of building a super-team, and could make Los Angeles less attractive to LeBron.
The Houston Rockets have long been identified as one of the teams closest in the running for LeBron James, and re-signing Chris Paul may have vaulted them to the top. A previous report from NBA reporter Marc Stein of the New York Times noted that if Paul stayed with the Rockets, they would become the frontrunner to land LeBron as well.
“If Paul stays with the Rockets, Houston becomes the closest thing to a favorite on my scorecard, no matter how complicated it would be for the 65-win Rockets and their general manager, Daryl Morey, to orchestrate the requisite salary-cap gymnastics to bring James in. But don’t discount the idea that James could try to bring Paul with him to a team that can afford two superstars, such as the Lakers, because he and Paul really are that close.”
It would certainly make sense for the two to end up on the same team. Chris Paul has been one of LeBron’s closest friends in the NBA, and there have been rumors for years that the two were trying to find a way to play on the same team.
While the NBA rumors surrounding LeBron James are growing ever-more intense, the NBA MVP hasn’t given any indication about when he will be meeting with teams, which way he is leaning, or when he could make a decision. So while there was a flurry of activity just as free agency started, a final decision for LeBron could still take more time.