The Lakers president of basketball operations said Friday that the organization will have the summer of 2019 in mind as it continues to shape its roster around the four-time NBA MVP, per ESPN.com's Ohm Youngmisuk:
"If we feel there's somebody out there or a deal to be made to make our team better, then we'll do it as long as it's a great deal for us. If it's not, we have our team and we'll go to battle, go to war with this team. We feel really good about this team.
"Then we'll have enough room for next summer to give another player a max deal. [General manager] Rob [Pelinka] and I, we already put the strategy together. LeBron of course changed some of that, but we're still going to stay disciplined and hope we'll be a team that can have a championship run for a long time."
James is not the only star Los Angeles has been linked to this summer, of course.
The team lost out on Paul George, who decided to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but has been in talks with the San Antonio Spurs regarding two-time All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard, according to Ramona Shelburne, Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.
While neither George nor Leonard is in purple and gold (at least not yet), Johnson and Co. have surrounded James with veteran talent. Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee have signed with the Lakers this summer—and all are on one-year deals.
Those contracts give Los Angeles players who can contribute next season while also not tying up money for years to come as the team looks to pursue another max free agent in 2019, per Youngmisuk.
It's no secret that James played a role in shaping the Cleveland Cavaliers over the past four years. And given the superstar has played in eight consecutive NBA Finals and won three championships, Johnson said he plans to communicate with LeBron when it comes time for a roster move:
"It's not about influence, it's about sitting down with the world's greatest player and picking his brain and saying, you're playing in the game today. Just like when I was playing, [late owner] Dr. [Jerry] Buss and [former Lakers GM] Jerry West would come to me when we were thinking about making moves. ...It's gonna be the same way here. We're gonna go to LeBron and say if there's a deal to be made for guys available, we'll say to him what do you think about this guy? You know him. You play against him, you know the backstory and everything about the guy."
Johnson noted that he is the "ultimate decision-maker," but he is willing to listen to what No. 23 has to say.
The Lakers are in the midst of a five-year playoff drought, but they have seen steady improvement from their young core over the past three seasons. Now that James is in town, Johnson is committed to surrounding the "greatest leader in sports" with "championship-caliber players."
Every team is looking to dethrone the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors, but the Lakers are willing to stay patient this season as they look toward the future.