Seems like they could use his help sooner than that, doesn't it?
While LeBron's Miami Heat are off to a fast 4-1 start, the star-studded Lakers have stumbled to an unfortunate 1-4 mark. Kobe Bryant's playing well and Dwight Howard's getting there, but other than those two, L.A.'s latest edition of "Showtime" remains a late arrival to the 2012-13 NBA season.
The Lakers could use a savior of James' caliber to swoop in and rescue the squad from media-and-fan-projected despair right about now. Trouble is, LeBron can't excise himself from his contract with the Heat until after the 2013-14 season, nor will the Lakers have the financial flexibility to sign him until then.
And, by that time, it won't be in the best interest of either party to join forces.
If LeBron's goal is to make his original championship prediction with the Heat look less foolish, he'd do well to stay put in Miami for the foreseeable future.
He already has one ring in his jewelry box and, with the way the Heat have played so far this season, can reasonably expect to add another to his collection this spring.
James, then, would be hard-pressed to find a more championship-friendly situation than the one he'll have in Miami in two years. Sure, Wade and Bosh will be older, but the roster as a whole will have established a cohesiveness that's rarely seen in the NBA, especially in this day and age of free agency, shorter contracts and a more constrictive salary cap.
Why give that up to chase brighter lights in a bigger city?
On a personal level, the idea of leaving behind a city and a team that he shares with two of his closest friends can't be all that appealing, can it?
LeBron's been close with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh ever since they came out of the 2003 NBA Draft together, and even closer since 2008, when they lifted Team USA to a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.
A lot of careful planning went into bringing those three superstars together on one team. Would LeBron really give up playing with two of his best friends in basketball for a move from one coast to the other?
You'd think that LeBron learned his lesson the last time he made such a momentous career "Decision."
James' move from the Cleveland to South Beach transformed him into a villain, probably cost him what would have been his third straight MVP and, more importantly, invited the ire of his entire home state.
If you thought LeBron's image took a hit with the Heat, just imagine how much more flack he'd catch if he chose to play for the Lakers, the most envied and widely despised franchise in the NBA.
He certainly wouldn't need an hour-long special on ESPN to set himself back again.
Here's another question for LeBron to consider: Who will be in the City of Angels for him to play with come 2014?
At present, Steve Nash is the only player under contract with the Lakers beyond 2014. He'll be 40 by then and already looks to have fallen off a bit since leaving the Phoenix Suns.
Dwight Howard may or may not be there, depending on how his free agency plays out in July. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are slated to hit the market when LeBron might—James has options in Miami through 2016.
If Kobe and Pau stay, James would be joining a roster that features a 36-year-old at shooting guard, a 34-year-old at power forward and a 40-year-old at the point.
Not exactly a core with which James can expect to compete for titles as far as age is concerned.
And if Bryant and Gasol go, then LeBron may not have much talent around him at all.
Not that LeBron would exactly be a spring chicken himself. He'll be closing in on his 30th birthday by the time the 2014-15 season rolls around.
For the Lakers' part, they may want to think twice about hitching their wagon to a guy who'd be nearing the tail-end of his prime at that point. The thought of spending lavishly on a guy with 11 seasons and up to nine lengthy playoff runs on his wheels might not be such a slam dunk.
Even less so when you tack on the physical toll that LeBron's body is likely to incur while playing power forward in this season and beyond.
By the same token, the summer of 2014 will afford the Lakers a long-awaited (and long-overdue) opportunity to finally inject some youth into the franchise. Andrew Bynum was the closest thing the Lakers have had to a young building block in some time, though his knees rendered him much older in basketball years.
To be sure, replacing mid-30s Kobe and Pau with a late-20s LeBron would technically qualify. On the whole, though, plugging him in alongside a 40-year-old Nash wouldn't exactly set the Lakers up for another lengthy run.
Instead, they would be old and balding.
And, well, in need of another makeover before long.
If there's any lesson the Lakers have learned so far this season, it's that compiling such a top-heavy roster isn't just expensive. This type of construction leaves a team with little margin for error when one of said stars gets hurt or doesn't perform at a high level.
Reshaping the roster around LeBron, Nash and Dwight (if he stays) would leave the Lakers in a similar position, albeit with a bit more financial flexibility.
The Lakers generate enough revenue to withstand any financial blow incurred by the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, but would be wise to spread their resources a bit more evenly going forward.
Having a deep bench may not be the key to championship contention, but a complete lack of such can kill a team's hopes of competing, especially in the league's burgeoning restrictive climate.
Just ask LeBron, whose reason for ditching Miami in 2014 may well hinge on the Heat's ability to field a competitive roster in light of the NBA's financial framework.