After finishing last season with an embarrassing 33-49 record, the Los Angeles Lakers are 14-21 now. LeBron James, who turned 38 years old today, is still there. But Anthony Davis is hurt. (Remember when people said he, not Dwyane Wade, was LeBron’s best teammate?) The Lakers didn’t trade Russell Westbrook over the summer.
And James had some words after Miami’s Dec. 28 win over the Lakers.
LeBron: “I don’t want to finish my career playing at this level, from a team aspect. I want to still be able to compete for championships because I know what I can still bring to any ballclub with the right pieces.”— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) December 29, 2022
Some have speculated that a reunion is in the cards for the four-time NBA champion. At another point in his postgame interview, James used the phrase “keep the main thing the main thing,” which he learned from Riley.
I remember LeBron unveiling that phrase "the main thing has to be the main thing" in this great profile from Lee Jenkins in 2015. Says he learned it from Pat Riley. https://t.co/r0UOAoCcRR https://t.co/QrHhxNNd85— Mitch Goldich (@mitchgoldich) December 29, 2022
Back in June 2021, the NBA fined Pat Riley $25,000 for saying that he’d leave a “key under the doormat” for James. It should be noted that Riley added, “I would do that, but I doubt that key ... that key is rusted now.” (The question arose because the Heat placed an ad saying “We’ll leave a key under the mat for you” in three South Florida newspapers after Wade left for the Chicago Bulls in 2016. And then after a year-and-a-half, Wade returned to the Heat.)
Allow me to throw cold water on this pipe dream.
James’ comments after the game might’ve reflected nostalgia for his time with the Heat. But more likely, he made those comments to nudge the Lakers to trade an extra first-round pick. He may lament that a chance to trade for Kyrie Irving has come and gone. The Brooklyn Nets’ 10-game win streak has launched them into the East’s second seed.
And of course, James gave up some leverage when he signed an extension with the Lakers just a few months ago. Moreover, James reportedly preferred a trade for Westbrook over one for Buddy Hield.
I agree with LeBron 100%. But also, why sign the extension? In doing so, he lost a lot of his leverage to influence roster moves. And Pelinka has done nothing in the past two years to inspire blind confidence. Plus, LBJ had a significant role in shaping this uncompetitive roster. https://t.co/inhwNVxK3F— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) December 29, 2022
With Miami from 2010-14 and the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2014-18, James rode the franchise until the win-now moves those teams made — trading draft picks, signing old veterans instead of developing young talent — caught up with them. But James has given more leeway to the Lakers, who have done worse building jobs than either Riley or David Griffin did.
Since he just signed an extension in August 2022, James cannot be traded this season. From then, we’ll see what happens before his son joins the NBA. But I agree with Riley. I doubt James would come back to the Heat.
LEBRON: “My last year will be played with my son. Wherever Bronny is at, that’s where I’ll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.”— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) February 20, 2022
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