Los Angeles Lakers handcuffs themselves after LeBron James signing

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James
Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James hit NBA free agency. For the four-time NBA champion, it was not about the money. He’s already a self-made billionaire. It was about returning to the Lakers and helping build an NBA title contender.

James’ return to the Lakers was no surprise. He actually offered to take a pay cut if Los Angeles was able to land one in a trio that included James Harden or Klay Thompson. Harden re-signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. Thompson was acquired by the Dallas Mavericks in a sign-and-trade with the Golden State Warriors.

This left the Lakers out in the cold. In the end, James signed a two-year, $104 million contract. The max that he could has signed for. Willing to take less to add someone who could help your team become contenders. Those on the free agent or trade markets disagreed.

Nearing his 40th birthday, LeBron is no longer the draw he used to be. Veterans were lining up to join him in Cleveland (twice), Miami and Los Angeles. Now, not so much.

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The LeBron James era is over

LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Buddy Hield on the verge of joining the division rival Golden State Warriors. They nabbed an underrated De’Anthony Melton in free agency. After attempting to hire Terry Stotts to greenish head coach JJ Redick’s staff, he chose the Warriors.

It’s not that Golden State is winning the offseason. It’s more about the Lakers fumbling that bag. Getting Dalton Knecht in the first round of the 2024 NBA Draft was a steal. Bronny Jams? Whatever.

Coming off a first-round exit in the NBA Playoffs, the Lakers knew they needed to improve. They have done nothing of substance. LeBron opting for the full guarantee added another layer to this.

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