LeBron James retirement rumors: What King departure means for Lakers


Carmelo Anthony announced his retirement on Monday, but it’s been a long time. After all, Anthony didn’t play in the NBA this season, but he was in pretty good company in that regard. Anthony was the penultimate player in the legendary 2003 draft class to officially retire. Of course, he and his contemporaries stand in stark contrast to the last remaining member of the rookie class. LeBron James played in the NBA this season. He also appeared in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Monday when Anthony retired.

James scored 40 points but was 4.3 seconds short of playing 48 minutes, ending the season with his Los Angeles Lakers losing to the Denver Nuggets. The results were disappointing, but the performance prior to that was anything but. James is 38 and has just played his entire postseason on one foot…and he’s still quite capable of tormenting opponents half his age.

But Anthony’s retirement is a harsh reminder that nothing lasts forever. After 20 years at the top of the NBA, James will eventually leave the world of basketball. “Finally” seemed a little ahead of Monday.

But after the Lakers’ loss to the Nuggets, James cryptically hinted at a future outside the NBA. James: ‘I have a lot to think about’ Said After the game. “Personally, there was a lot to think about as we went through the game of basketball.” In a later conversation, James admitted he was indeed considering retiring from the NBA.

Considering James’ own stated intentions, the news is surprising.James Said As recently as January, he made plans to “stay in the league for at least a few more years.” He will be a freshman at USC next season and has been open about his desire for years to play alongside his son Bronnie, who is at least a year out of the NBA. James also signed a contract extension with the Lakers last offseason, but that hasn’t started yet.

However, James had not injured his foot yet as of January. He’s still unsure if he’ll have surgery this offseason, and he told McMenamin he plans to have an MRI and go from there. The surgery could cost him significant time next season. Though the late-season hurt is still fresh in our minds, the Nuggets aren’t going anywhere. The Lakers have a path to improvement over the summer, but so do the rest of the Western Conference. James may have no better chance in his fifth championship than the one he just lost. His son may be a one-time prospect. He may need a few years of college life. James doesn’t want to wait, or maybe he can’t.

It’s unclear if the Lakers knew this was a possibility, but while their trade deadline move is about improving their current roster, it’s unlikely they prepared the Lakers for some sort of crisis. no doubt. The Future of Post James. D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Rui Hachimura, Mo Bamba, and Jared Vanderbilt were acquired. All five were under the age of 26 when they were acquired. Austin Reeves is 24 and promising young guard Max Christie is 20. The group, along with Anthony Davis, contributed to the Lakers’ 8-5 record while LeBron missed 13 games in February and March. Without that stretch, the Lakers wouldn’t have made the playoffs.

But the playoffs aren’t the goal in Los Angeles. The Lakers’ success is measured by Banner, and even if the Lakers weren’t the title team with James, they almost certainly wouldn’t have been without him. They’ll have to turn without him, but luckily they’ll have at least some flexibility in doing so. Should James retire, the Lakers will likely put him on a voluntary retirement list rather than buy him out. That would take his salary off the books, but the Lakers would retain his rights if he chose to return. This approach would prevent him from returning to the league for a year without the unanimous approval of the NBA owners, leading to the Lakers using James’ retirement as a means of creating artificial cap space, and then leaving James and You will not be able to renegotiate with cheaper contracts. middle of the season. If James were to retire, the Lakers would likely be without him for at least a year.

It’s worth noting that Bronnie James is draft eligible a year from now, but the Lakers’ ability to draft him is unclear. The Pelicans own the Lakers’ 2024 first-round pick, but have the right to postpone it to 2025 if they wish. Without James, the Lakers could be one of the worst teams in the NBA, depending on other moves and injuries. If so, the Pelicans will likely choose to keep the pick, preventing the Lakers from using Bronnie to lure older James back into the NBA. The James family could theoretically get around this problem by undrafting Bronnie if the Lakers don’t have a pick and waiting until they finally get a pick. But how long does LeBron intend to stay out of retirement if he has an eventual return in mind? Even if the Lakers had the pick, there’s no guarantee Bronnie would fall for it.

The Lakers will have no choice but to view James’ retirement as permanent, but if they liquidate his salary, their books will suddenly look very clean. That leaves only guaranteed contracts on Davis and Christie’s ledger. Reeves has a meager cap as a restricted free agent and Vanderbilt is underpaid on unguaranteed contracts, but above that four the Lakers will either re-sign their own free agency or look for outside upgrades. It can certainly create virtually infinite cap space to chase. . If the Lakers were flexible, would they consider acquiring top-level free agents like James Harden and Khris Middleton? What about Kyrie Irving?

It’s a name worth keeping in mind as James considers his options. LeBron has never been slick when it comes to wielding influence over employers. He has wanted his former teammate Irving to return to Los Angeles in the past. Perhaps this retirement story is just a way to signal that the Lakers expect to aggressively pursue upgrades this offseason. In short, “Bring me Irving or he might walk away.”

Of course, that’s a guess. Here’s what it doesn’t: Davis is eligible for a contract extension this offseason. He could become a free agent as early as 2024 and originally came to Los Angeles to play alongside James. The Lakers may be a little hesitant to make a long-term commitment to the elderly and injury-prone Davis if he doesn’t fight soon. A move would free them from their complicated relationship with Crutch Sports, who represented James, Davis and several other players who have spent the last five years with the Lakers.

A move away from Davis would almost certainly mean a few years at the bottom of the standings. The Lakers are owed just one of their next three first-round picks, with a fourth going to Utah in 2027 protected in the top four. This gives the Lakers a little more room to tank if needed, but inertia is a powerful force in basketball. The Lakers will probably extend if Davis is willing and willing to take the time to see his future. Even if the Lakers fail to attract a new costar for him this summer, they’ll have a chance in the future. Stars will always want to play in Los Angeles.

Anthony certainly did. He spent his final NBA season in Los Angeles, but like Davis, he went there to play with James. The Lakers are well aware of the power one megastar can hold. After Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon in 2013, they were stranded in the wilderness for five years. When James signed in 2018, he saved them from that fate. But even then, most of his 2003 draft buddies were leaving the NBA. They’re all gone now. James is next, but whenever the time comes, the Lakers will have to take over a piece of the franchise he has spent the last five seasons leading.

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