On Sunday, Klutch Sports Group announced on Twitter James’ plans to sign a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers after declining his $35.6 million player option with the Cleveland Cavaliers and testing free agency. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the fourth year is a player option.
Windhorst noted that ultimately LeBron’s decision came down to just two teams:
"This was always going to be the place. It was always a two-horse race between Cleveland and Los Angeles."
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 2, 2018
Lakers President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson met with LeBron on late Saturday night and spoke for “several hours,” according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who added additional details on their discussion: “The Lakers had felt a sense of urgency this week to find a co-star LeBron — either PG or Kawhi. However when Magic spoke to James late Saturday, he assured them this was a long term play and his decision wouldn’t be affected by a transaction they could make under a time pressure.”
Shelburne reported it was a “hush-hush operation” without any leaks on the meeting, unlike discussions with the Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers were aware they needed to give James time to announce his decision when he wanted to, per Shelburne.
James’ decision will catapult the Lakers up the title-contending ranks.
Looking at his numbers, it’s not hard to see why. At 33 years old, James produced a sensational 2017-18 campaign in which he averaged 27.5 points, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds on 54.2 percent shooting from the field, including 36.7 percent from three, in a league-high 36.9 minutes per game.
James’ postseason performance was also one for the ages.
Over the course of 22 appearances, he averaged 34.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 9.0 assists and led the Cavaliers to their fourth straight NBA Finals.
In doing so, he became the first player in league history to average at least 30 points, nine boards and nine dimes over the course of an entire postseason (minimum 15 games played).
Those are the kind of figures that can help transform the Lakers from Western Conference also-rans into one of the league’s most compelling clubs.
Beyond James, L.A. will field a core that consists of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram. Plus, it still has the financial flexibility to make another max-level splash.
That group will need time together to pose a threat to the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, to be sure. At this point, though, it possesses the blend of established talent and upside necessary to make some serious noise in due time.