Shams: LeBron James Won't Be Traded by Lakers, According to Rich Paul

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVDecember 22, 2021

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 21: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during the game against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on December 21, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images )
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The Los Angeles Lakers are running out of ways to improve their roster in pursuit of another championship, but they aren't willing to pursue the nuclear option.

Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium said on The Pat McAfee Show he spoke with LeBron James' agent, Rich Paul, who said the four-time MVP won't be leaving L.A.

Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow

"I heard directly from Rich Paul that LeBron James isn't leaving the Lakers.. this team just doesn't look it has the young legs that they need to have &amp; they have been very active in the trade market" ~<a href="https://twitter.com/ShamsCharania?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ShamsCharania</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PatMcAfeeShowLIVE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PatMcAfeeShowLIVE</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LakeShow?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LakeShow</a> <a href="https://t.co/BZEAMM6Zkb">pic.twitter.com/BZEAMM6Zkb</a>

The Lakers are approaching the same point James' previous teams did.

Los Angeles sacrificed almost all of its best young talent to acquire Anthony Davis and then used most of what was left to get Russell Westbrook. Getting Davis resulted in winning a title in 2019-20, but now Los Angeles finds itself at .500 (16-16) with little in the way of solutions.

"We don't know," James told reporters after a 108-88 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. "We have no idea what this team can be."

The bill inevitably comes due when you leverage long-term assets in pursuit of short-term success. There are only so many times you can reshuffle the roster before painting yourself into a major corner.

It took the Cleveland Cavaliers only two seasons to almost totally tear apart their championship squad from 2015-16. The Miami Heat seemed to be in need of a significant refresh on the heels of their loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals.

James left Cleveland and Miami for greener pastures as a free agent when they had boxed themselves in. What happens when the same thing is happening to his current team and he's signed on for at least one more season?

The Lakers are paying James, Davis and Westbook $129.5 million next season, which eliminates free agency as a route for general manager Rob Pelinka to add significant reinforcements. Some combination of Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and draft picks probably won't be enough to swing a major trade, either.

From Pelinka's perspective, it's not actually that difficult to talk yourself into the idea of trading LeBron as the most straightforward way to wipe the slate clean and start again.

Paul obviously threw cold water on any rumors for the time being. The fact that this conversation is happening in the first place, though, is pretty telling about the state of the Lakers.