In a column published this morning, Brian Windhorst of ESPN floats a rumor that, if true, would shake the NBA world to its core. Windhorst suggests that the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that just acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard and that appears to be making an all-in push for an NBA title this season, is already planning for a post-Kobe future.
And that plan centers around one LeBron James.
Citing several NBA executives, Windhorst says that the Lakers are positioning themselves to try to sign James in 2014, a time when the current Miami Heat star can elect to become a free agent and test the market.
Of course, a lot of things would need to happen for this to shake out. First, Kobe would need to be out of the picture. The idea of him co-existing with LeBron is simply unrealistic.
However, Kobe does have just two years left on his contract and he has previously said that he only sees himself playing those two seasons and then retiring. He would be 35 by 2014 and, if he wins another title or two in the next couple of years, he will almost certainly have accomplished everything he set out to do in the game. Then again, Bryant’s game isn’t showing many signs of slowing down and he still has the competitive fire in him. Come 2014, he may feel that he has a lot of basketball left in him.
As Windhorst notes, the Lakers have a huge payroll currently, but almost all that money comes off the books in 2014–clearly space for a possible LeBron signing.
Would LeBron be interested in signing with Los Angeles? That’s a question that we can’t really answer. His current Heat team appears loaded and ready to make a run at becoming a dynasty, but things can turn around in a hurry. The Lakers are one of sports’ most storied franchises and LeBron might like the idea of going to perhaps the only team where he could raise his already impressive worldwide profile even more.
As Windhorst points out, guard Chris Paul could be a key cog in deciding LeBron’s next destination. The two players are known to be extremely close and they have each spoken of a desire to play together. Paul becomes a free agent in 2013 and where he signs could ultimately reveal where LeBron will eventually end up.