LeBron’s former teammate willing to bet ‘left big toe’ that James won’t take pay cut for Lakers’ future

Jesse Cinquini
4 Min Read
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins — LeBron James’ former teammate on the Cleveland Cavaliers — implied that the 39-year-old is willing to take a pay cut to help the Los Angeles Lakers in the short term rather than the long term.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported recently that Klay Thompson, James Harden and Jonas Valanciunas are three players that James would be willing to take a pay cut for. However, all three names are already off the market, as Harden agreed to a two-year deal to remain with the Los Angeles Clippers, while Valanciunas inked a three-year contract with one of the NBA’s worst teams a season ago in the Washington Wizards.

“[Rich] Paul said James would be willing to work with the Lakers on signing a deal below the maximum three-year, $162 million he is eligible for to open up the full $12.9 million mid-level exception to sign an ‘impact player,’” McMenamin wrote.

“The type of player that James would be willing to make a financial sacrifice for would be an established veteran playmaker like James Harden or Klay Thompson, or an established big man to play alongside Anthony Davis — like Jonas Valanciunas, sources told ESPN.

“If the Lakers are unable to entice a player of that ilk to come to L.A. for the MLE, James will seek the max, Paul told ESPN.

“James can only have so much patience in working with the Lakers on his next deal, however. Team USA’s training camp to prepare for this summer’s Paris Olympics begins in a week in Las Vegas. Paul told ESPN that he will look to complete a deal with the Lakers for James before Team USA camp opens up.”

But Shams Charania of The Athletic indicated on X (previously known as Twitter) on Monday that the Dallas Mavericks — who represented the Western Conference in the 2024 NBA Finals — have agreed to a deal with Thompson.

It’s easy to understand why Perkins seemingly believes James is focused on winning now with the Lakers. After all, James is the league’s oldest player at this juncture and has 21 years of experience playing in the NBA under his belt, meaning he is possibly nearing the end of his storied career.

Arguably the Lakers’ second-best player behind James in Davis isn’t getting any younger, either. The big man will turn 32 years old in March, and his best years may already be behind him.

The Lakers have already made a few notable moves so far this offseason. First, Los Angeles hired J.J. Redick — who played for six teams during his 15 seasons in the NBA — to replace Darvin Ham and become the 29th head coach in franchise history.

Furthermore, the Lakers drafted Dalton Knecht with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft last month. In 36 games played with the University of Tennessee during the 2023-24 season, he averaged 21.7 points while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 39.7 from 3-point range to go along with 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per contest.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer covering the Lakers’ dreaded rivals, the Boston Celtics, for SB Nation. He has also covered the New York Knicks for The Knicks Wall.