LeBron James made stunning free-agent turns in 2010 and 2014, so it should come as no surprise that questions are already being asked as he gets set to hit the open market again in July.
It’s anyone’s guess where James could wind up in 2018, but a new report from ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst suggests one high-profile suitor may already be trailing the field in the race for James’ services.
Citing sources, Shelburne and Windhorst reported Thursday that the Los Angeles Lakers—long rumored as a possible landing spot for the three-time champion—are a “long shot” to reach an agreement with James.
So if the Lakers are on the periphery, where could James land?
According to Shelburne and Windhorst, no one has an inkling since James usually plays free agency close to the vest.
On top of that, they noted “the concept that James and [Chris] Paul want to spend their golden years as teammates [is] an overstated assumption.”
It appears a championship-caliber environment is going to be the biggest factor that contributes to James’ decision.
Appearing on the Rich Eisen Show in November (h/t Michael D. Sykes II of SB Nation), James’ business associate Maverick Carter said winning is what “matters most” to James at this stage of his career.
“These days, it doesn’t matter anymore,” Carter said. “The Lakers and the Knicks have been bad—the Knicks for a very long time, the Lakers since Kobe aged out of being one of the best players in the league. You can be known or be a star from anywhere—anywhere in the world. … When you win as an athlete, that matters the most.”
Consider this the beginning of a speculation cycle that’s sure to churn rapidly when the calendar flips to 2018.
Could Paul George Be on the Block Again?
It’s no secret the Oklahoma City Thunder have stumbled out of the gates after flanking Russell Westbrook with perennial All-Stars Paul George and Carmelo Anthony over the summer.
Naturally, those early-season struggles have precipitated a question: Could Paul George find his way back on to the trading block?
It’s an interesting proposition.
George will be an unrestricted free agent in July, and the Thunder could entertain trade offers in an attempt to recoup some value for the stud swingman if they think he’s liable to walk in the summer.
And according to ESPN.com’s Royce Young, teams across the league are starting to wonder whether OKC’s PG-13 experiment will be cut short.
On Wednesday, Young reported the Thunder “have caught the attention of many around the league, with rival executives already wondering whether George could potentially find his way back on the trade block if things don’t improve.”
USA Today‘s Sam Amick added “executives will be eager to exploit the situation” as more and more offers start to roll in, also saying: “The league is watching the George situation very closely, and there’s a general belief that the Thunder will have to act if they haven’t significantly improved a few months from now.”
However, Amick noted OKC’s “lack of leverage” given George’s contract is expiring means it “could compel the Thunder to see this through until the summertime.”
And with optics already working against the Thunder now Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis are flourishing with the Indiana Pacers, they will have to tread lightly if they continue to pile up losses at concerning rates over the next two months.
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