Report: Lakers operating as if LeBron James will be back

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are operating as if superstar LeBron James will return to the franchise for the 2024-25 season and possibly beyond, according to The Athletic’s Jovan Buha.

“The Lakers are operating as if LeBron will be back,” Buha said. “That is how they are approaching their coaching search. That is how they are approaching their offseason plans in terms of how to build a roster and what to do around the draft and with the picks and whatnot.”

James, who has a player option for the 2024-25 season, could opt out of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent this coming offseason.

However, it appears that the Lakers are confident that the star will be back with the franchise, even if it ends up being on a new deal. It’s possible that deal could be for multiple seasons, but ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that it’s likely James opts out of his deal in order to get a no-trade clause – even if he signs a one-year pact.

“I think LeBron’s gonna opt out no matter what,” Windhorst said in April. “And the reason I think he’s gonna opt out no matter what is even if he just signs back for one year, the only functional way for LeBron to get a no-trade clause is to sign a new contract. If he extends the contract he’s in or picks up that option, extends onto it, he can’t get a no-trade clause. And I think for a number of different reasons, LeBron would like, ask for and probably be granted a no-trade clause.”

Windhorst also reported during the 2023-24 regular season that James could be angling for a multiyear deal with the Lakers, but that he expects him to hit free agency this summer.

“I don’t think this is LeBron’s last stand,” Windhorst said at the time. “I don’t think this is the Lakers last stand. First off, I think LeBron is angling to sign a multiyear deal in the offseason with the Lakers that will be nine figures. That will be even bigger than the deal he is on now.

“Now, whether or not he’s able to finish that deal, whether or not the Lakers want to give him a three-year contract and pay him $60 million when he’s 42 years old, that’s a different discussion.”

The Lakers certainly would love to have the four-time champion back on the roster, as he still put up huge numbers in the 2023-24 season despite turning 39 years old.

James averaged 25.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game while shooting 54.0 percent from the field and 41.0 percent from beyond the arc in the regular season. He then followed that up by averaging 27.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game across five games in the playoffs.

The Lakers are likely going to have to commit major money to retain James this offseason, but it would make sense to do so since they made the Western Conference Finals in the 2022-23 season with him and Anthony Davis leading the way.

If the Lakers can bring in the right coach and improve some of the pieces around James, they could still contend for a title in the 2024-25 season. For now, Lakers fans will have to wait and see how James handles his contract situation this coming offseason.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.