LeBron James Trade Rumors: Star Could Demand Deal If Lakers Whiff in Free Agency

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2019

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) during an NBA basketball game Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

If the Los Angeles Lakers don't make a big splash in free agency or on the trade market this offseason, LeBron James' tenure with the team reportedly could end soon.

During an appearance on ESPN LA (h/t Pro Basketball Talk's Dan Feldman), Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times revealed the LeBron-related rumblings:

"I'm hearing that, if they whiff on free agency, and if they whiff on a trade—which I don't know how likely that is, but if that happens, they've got big trouble with LeBron. Why would LeBron—I mean, the LeBron era could be over before it starts here.

"I heard this for the first time yesterday. Somebody very connected said, 'You know what, if they whiff, LeBron's going to say either, 'I'm out of here,' or 'Get me out of here,' or the Lakers better just might as well just get him out of here."

The Lakers went just 37-45 in James' initial year with the team, marking the first time a LeBron-led squad did not reach the playoffs since 2004-05.

Several factors contributed to the Lakers' struggles in 2018-19—with injuries near the top of that list. James missed a career-high 27 games, while Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball both missed significant time.

The Lakers also couldn't land a second star in free agency, which forced them to bring in veteran role players Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson instead. L.A.'s best chance was seemingly Paul George, but he re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Additionally, there appears to have been dysfunction within the organization. Magic Johnson resigned as president of basketball operations just before the end of the season, and head coach Luke Walton "mutually parted ways" with the team at its conclusion.

In recent weeks, Johnson has been vocal about his belief that general manager Rob Pelinka operated behind his back at times.

Given the negativity surrounding the organization, it's fair to wonder if players will avoid the Lakers in free agency. That would be tough pill for the team to swallow since the 2019 class could be among the most stacked of all time, as it will likely include Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic.

The Lakers can also continue their pursuit of New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis on the trade front, since Davis has yet to give the Pels any assurance he will re-sign with them.

Regardless, L.A. needs to add one or two more stars alongside James to be a threat in the Western Conference next season.

If the Lakers can't, then trading LeBron for a king's ransom and restarting their rebuild may be their best chance for success in the coming years.

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