Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James to a four-year, $145 million contract that will have him leading a team composed of young, upcoming stars like Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram and recently signed veterans such as Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley. And while many people in and out of the NBA have come to terms with the surprise that came with his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers, others are still questioning the reasons why he did so. Some are speculating that he wasn’t exactly after playing for the Lakers, but rather living in Los Angeles.
In a report published Sunday on ESPN, Dave McMenamin and Ohm Youngmisuk gathered reactions from “more than two dozen” people affiliated with the NBA, including multiple coaches, players, agents, and team executives, and evaluated their reactions to LeBron James and his decision to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. As seen in the comments of some of these individuals, not everyone had a purely positive reaction to the move.
“He wanted to come to L.A. They just had to not f*** it up. [Former Lakers general manager and current Los Angeles Clippers adviser] Jerry West just said it, and I was like, ‘Finally.’ He’s not coming to the Lakers. He came to L.A.,” said one Western Conference player who anonymously spoke to McMenamin and Youngmisuk.
A “prominent” player agent also appeared to think that LeBron James was mainly after living in Los Angeles rather than actually becoming a Laker, while also remarking that the Lakers with LeBron might become a playoff-caliber team, but not a championship contender like the Cleveland Cavaliers were when James was playing for them.
“My thought was, ‘Good luck. You must really want to live in L.A. Playing Western Conference teams night in and night out is not going to be the same. You don’t get a ‘night off.’ I would not want to end my career just making the playoffs.”
While the above comments offered a critical look at LeBron James’ prospects as a Los Angeles Laker, ESPN’s McMenamin and Youngmisuk also gathered predictions for the Lakers now that James will be wearing the purple and gold in the coming season. Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau described the Lakers as an “instant contender” with LeBron onboard, but a few unnamed executives and coaches thought that it would be too much of a stretch to expect James’ ongoing streak of eight NBA Finals appearances to continue in 2019. One Western Conference executive told ESPN, however, that the Lakers have a chance to become championship contenders “in the coming years,” if not immediately.
In any case, LeBron James expressed enthusiasm when he discussed his move to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, during the opening of the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron. According to USA Today, James said that signing with the Lakers was a “dream come true,” and mentioned how he looked up to Lakers legend and current president of basketball operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson when he was growing up.