The LA Lakers and Magic Johnson, in particular, vowed to go all out every single season when they acquired LeBron James in the summer of 2018. It’s for this reason that they mortgaged the future to get Anthony Davis and continued to do so to acquire Russell Westbrook.
Following the franchise-altering moves to land James and Davis, the Lakers won the 2020 NBA championship. They also got bounced in the first round and missed the playoffs once. Acquiring Westbrook last summer led to the Lakers missing the playoffs again this season. If the Lakers’ front office sticks to its word, it should not stop doing everything to give “King James” another shot at a title.
Chris Broussard, on “The Odd Couple” podcast, questioned the Lakers’ reluctance to part with a first-round pick to ship Westbrook for a better complementary piece:
“Once you get LeBron James, it’s trying to win it all every single year, right?! I’m not building nothing. We going for it. LeBron, that’s his mentality. It should be his mentality in his 20th year, and it should be the organization’s mentality, so I don’t care about the picks if I’m the Lakers.”
A year ago, James wrongly thought Westbrook was the answer to his need for another superstar to help carry the load to the title. This season, that need may turn out to be shipping the former MVP as part of a trade package for another player or a couple of players.
The Lakers have been putting in the appearance of wanting to make Westbrook’s stay work. But after the fiery point guard’s exit interview in which he blamed everyone for this season, it seems highly unlikely that the next campaign could be better.
According to Broussard, if a future first-round pick is a hindrance to move the Triple-Double king, the Lakers shouldn’t even have to think twice:
“If I’m the Lakers, I’m not concerned about a 2027, a 2029, whatever the year it would be, draft pick. My plan is to be so good that that draft pick is a low draft pick anyway! They tried to rebuild through the draft. Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and it didn’t work!
“And those are all pretty good players now, but they’re not with the Lakers anymore. They weren’t working with the Lakers, and they weren’t working with LeBron James.”
Pushing for a LeBron James extension could force the LA Lakers to trade Russell Westbrook
Besides the Russell Westbrook issue, LeBron James’ impending contract talk will keep owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka up all night. The four-time MVP will reportedly keep his options moving as his immediate goal is to win a championship before his son Bronny James gets drafted (no earlier than 2024).
If the LA Lakers can get one or two players in exchange for Westbrook who can elevate their chances of winning, James might continue his Hollywood story. Anthony Davis is locked up until the 2024-25 season, which should still coincide if “King James” signs a two-year extension.
LA Rams general manager Les Snead won the Super Bowl last season with his now-famous quote, “F**k ’em picks.” The Lakers might have to get their cue from that if they want to keep their promise to James and add banner No. 18 to the rafters.