NBA Rumors: Speculation Surrounding LeBron James Trade, 76ers' Doc Rivers, More
The 2021-22 NBA playoffs are nearing their pinnacle, with the conference finals set to get underway on Tuesday and Wednesday. For fans and the four teams left alive—the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors—the next few weeks will be plenty exciting.
For the rest of the league, though, it's on to the offseason, where the coaching market, free agency, trades and the 2022 draft are the headliners.
The draft lottery, by the way, is scheduled to take place Tuesday.
With the offseason already in full swing for the majority of the league, now is a perfect time to dive into the latest output from the rumor mill. We'll start with a team that was widely expected to push for the conference finals but fell short of even making the play-in tournament—the Los Angeles Lakers.
Let's dig in.
Phil Jackson Rumored to Favor a LeBron James Trade
The Lakers had three superstars in LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook this season. However, injuries and a lack of chemistry derailed their season, and Los Angeles failed to even sniff the playoffs. Westbrook, in particular, proved to be a poor fit with the 2021-22 roster.
However, James—widely viewed as the team's centerpiece—may be the preferred trade chip of former Lakers coach and current coaching advisor Phil Jackson over Westbrook.
"I've heard that Phil would like LeBron traded," Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times told The Doug Gottlieb Show (h/t Jacob Rude of Silver Screen and Roll). "I've just heard that, but I've got nothing to back that up. No on-the-record stuff to back that up. I do know that Phil would like to keep Westbrook and try to make that work with him."
While it's unclear where the buzz is coming from—even Plaschke admitted that he hasn't been able to confirm it—it's sure to add drama to an already pivotal Lakers offseason.
It's worth noting, though, that Lakers president Jeanie Buss seems content to let James play out his contract—whether he extends it or not.
"If LeBron James ultimately decides against signing an extension with the Lakers in August, sources say Buss wouldn't see his desire to play out the final season of his contract as a reason to consider trading him, " The Athletic's Sam Amick wrote earlier this month.
This will remain one to watch because James is still one of the league's top players, and if he did hit the trade block, it would be huge. It feels unlikely, though, unless James decides that he wants out.
Doc Rivers' 76ers Future May Not Be Certain
The Philadelphia 76ers at least made the playoffs, though they experienced a second-round exit at the hands of the Heat. It marks the second straight year in which Philadelphia has fallen in the conference semis, though the 76ers are publicly backing head coach Doc Rivers for now.
"I just think he's a great coach," 76ers president Daryl Morey said, per ESPN's Tim Bontemps. "...I think [general manager] Elton [Brand] and I and him make a great team, and we're gonna see where this journey takes us."
However, this may not mean that Rivers' job is 100 percent safe. Appearing Friday on NBA Today, ESPN NBA insider Ramona Shelburne hinted that Rivers' situation may be an ongoing one.
"Everyone around the league that I've talked to said let's keep an eye on this one," Shelburne said (h/t Bleacher Report's Mike Chiari).
While it seems unlikely that Philadelphia would reverse course and move on from Rivers, it might be the only significant change the franchise can make this offseason. The Sixers are expected to return a roster headlined by James Harden, Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris, and they're not going to have much financial flexibility.
According to Spotrac, Philadelphia is set to see $118.6 million in active-cap spending next season. It may also be without a first-round pick in the draft, depending on whether the Brooklyn Nets exercise their option as part of the Harden-Ben Simmons trade.
With few roster options, the 76ers could theoretically look to shake things up on the staff, though it's hard to envision them finding a better option than Rivers.
Mike D'Antoni Could Be Favorite for the Hornets Job
The 76ers have a proven coach in Rivers if they indeed choose to keep him. The Charlotte Hornets, though, are looking for a new coach after parting with James Borrego in April.
Borrego's squad had a 43-39 record this past season but failed to make the postseason. Charlotte hasn't made the playoffs since experiencing a first-round exit after the 2015-16 campaign. While the Hornets haven't replaced Borrego just yet, they may already have their top candidate in mind.
"As team representatives from throughout the NBA prepare to head to Chicago for the annual tradition of a week’s worth of predraft activities starting Monday, there is ongoing buzz in league coaching circles that Mike D'Antoni is in a strong position to land the Charlotte Hornets' head-coaching job," NBA insider Marc Stein wrote.
Stein noted Charlotte's desire for a veteran coach who can "forge a connection" with guard LaMelo Ball. Stein also pointed out that Hornets president of basketball operations Mitch Kupchak has hired D'Antoni before, with the Lakers.
D'Antoni last coached as an assistant with the Nets during the 2020-21 season. This past season, he served as a coaching consultant with the New Orleans Pelicans.