In a city full of stars, a King arrives

image via clutchpoints.com
image via clutchpoints.com

The free agency frenzy has lived up to its hype. Yesterday, arguably the best player in basketball announced that he was going to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. Never in a million years did I think this would ever happen. There were various rumors going around after the NBA Finals that there was a possibility he would consider the Lakers. As free agency opened, media caught a glimpse of James and his family landing at Van Nuys airport in Southern California. From there, the speculation started to gain traction that the Lakers were a viable option for the superstar. At exactly 5:08PM PT, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN dropped a bomb and let the world know that LeBron James agreed to join the Lakers. It would be a 4-year, $154M deal. It was actually a shock to see 4-years as opposed to maybe a 1 or 2 year deal. After all, James has been known to take very short-term deals. That length of a contract tells me that James has the utmost confidence in the Lakers front office and what they can do going forward. James being in Los Angeles drastically changes the landscape of the NBA.

Los Angeles Times writers Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner break down the story of how all this came about. According to them, Magic Johnson was at the James residence at 9:01PM PT, exactly when free agency opened up. Here are some pieces from the article:

“They talked about basketball and what the Lakers’ future could be, according to sources not authorized to speak publicly. James was already interested in the Lakers. He didn’t mind that the Lakers weren’t a ready-made championship team; he could help build that. They bonded as men who’d grown up in the Midwest, men who saw basketball as a doorway to the business world and a way to effect social change.

For five years the Lakers wandered through an NBA desert, amid the twilight of Bryant’s career as his body no longer allowed him to be the player who helped lead the Lakers to titles. For five years the 16-time champions couldn’t make the playoffs.

In three of those years they set franchise records for futility. The 55 games they lost in the 2013-14 season were the most in the franchise’s history. Until the next year when they lost 61 and the year after that when they lost 65.

No superstar free agent came to save them. But the Lakers front office kept hoping and assuming.” (You can read the full article HERE)

For James to know that the Lakers would not necessarily be a contender this year, and still joined them is a testament to Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka, Jeanie Buss and the Lakers organization. Really for the past 5 years, the Lakers have been mediocre at best. Even when Kobe was still playing, he was aging and was at the end of his career. There was no one to really carry the torch. What Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have done in a short amount of time is nothing short of sensational. Now with LeBron there and the good young nucleus they have, the Lakers are sure to make a run soon than later. This move alone puts the Lakers as a main destination again for other free agents going forward. There are still rumblings of a possible Kawhi Leonard trade, but talks have died down now that the Lakers got their main target in James. The Lakers have the leverage now since they don’t have to offer such a big package in order to get Leonard in return. He will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019 and the Lakers can then sign him outright. There were a couple moves the Lakers made after the James announcement. The Lakers will sign James’ arch nemesis Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee whose team just recently beat the Cavs in the Finals. LeBron’s last season numbers were just absolutely unreal, averaging 27.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 7.2 apg while shooting 73% from the field. He will make the Lakers young core a lot better and will push them to work hard every single game. The Lakers are still making moves and by the time they are done, they could be positioning themselves for contention. The Warriors are still the champs, and to be at their level, it will take more than just LeBron James. It’s going to take a collective effort from the supporting cast to be competitive in a stacked Western Conference. For now, the allure has returned to Los Angeles and a King is leading the way.

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