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Windhorst: LeBron James' Belief in Lakers Facilitated New 2-Year, $97.1M Contract

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVAugust 20, 2022

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File

LeBron James' feelings regarding the Los Angeles Lakers organization are reportedly what ultimately led to him signing a contract extension this week.

Speaking about the subject on Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective (beginning at the 2:47 mark), ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst said James signed the extension because he "believes in the Lakers."

Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the extension is worth $97.1 million over two years and includes a third-year player option.

Wojnarowski noted that LeBron became the highest-paid player in NBA history by signing the deal, as it will give him $532 million in guaranteed money for his career.

The 37-year-old James had been set to enter the final year of his contract, but he is now under contract through at least the 2023-24 season.

In his four seasons with the Lakers thus far, James has experienced no shortage of ups and downs. Things started off rough in 2018-19, as he was limited to 55 games due to injury and the Lakers missed the playoffs.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka swung for the fences during the ensuing offseason, acquiring All-Star big man Anthony Davis in a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans.

That move paid dividends, as the Lakers won the NBA championship to close out the 2019-20 season, and James was named NBA Finals MVP for the fourth time in his illustrious career.

L.A. returned to the playoffs the following season, but it had to go through the play-in tournament after James and Davis missed time with injuries. The result was a first-round exit at the hands of the Phoenix Suns.

The Lakers missed out on the playoffs once again last season, and injuries to James and Davis were a factor, as was the play of guard Russell Westbrook, who didn't assimilate as well as hoped after the Lakers acquired him from the Washington Wizards.

LeBron is arguably still the best player in the world when healthy, as evidenced by his per-game averages of 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.9 three-pointers made in 56 games last season.

AD is also a dominant force when he isn't on the shelf, but keeping them both healthy has proved to be a challenge.

Additionally, the Lakers don't have many pieces to use in order to improve the roster since James, Davis and Westbrook account for the vast majority of their salary cap.

As of now, the Lakers are set to enter the 2022-23 season with largely the same roster as last season, save for some changes to the supporting cast.

There is still a chance the Lakers could package Westbrook and some draft picks in a trade for Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving or the Indiana Pacers duo of Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, but there seemingly hasn't been much movement on those fronts.

If the Lakers are unable to make a big move before the 2022-23 season starts, it is somewhat difficult to envision them contending for a title, although Westbrook's contract expiring at the end of the season would open things up for them to add some talent.

In that case, James signing an extension may have been an indication that he is banking on what the Lakers will be able to do in 2023-24 when they are free of Westbrook's deal.

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