After the Los Angeles Lakers' 2021/22 NBA season came to an end following bad performances from the 17-time NBA champions, many details about their season surfaced, with some players pointing out different reasons to explain why their campaign went so horribly.
Moreover, the future of the team is unknown right now. They have a lot of work to do this summer to assemble a solid squad that can compete for the title next year. Meanwhile, it seems like more problems could come if they aren't able to extend LeBron James' tenure with the team.
According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, the King is unlikely to sign a contract extension with the Purple and Gold, as he could take the approach of signing deals after every season, something he did in Cleveland.
James surely knows the Lakers should improve the scouting and analytics departments too, investing in the kind of bright basketball minds who could create a competitive edge during these later years of his storied career. A first step, many would argue, would be to create and support the kind of inclusive and collaborative culture where solutions tend to rise to the surface.
James and his associates aren’t blind to any of this.
So with all that in mind, what comes next in James’ Lakers life?
Based on my conversations with people who have a strong sense of such things, it’s clear James is considering playing out this contract rather than signing a two-year extension this summer. If flexibility and freedom are the goals here, James (who is owed $44.4 million next season) could go back to the year-by-year approach he perfected in his second Cleveland stop.
As he has made abundantly clear of late, he’ll do everything he can to play with his son, Bronny Jr., when and if he makes the jump to the NBA (in the summer of 2024, at the earliest). Signing one-year deals is a surefire way to avoid any contractual obstacles to that dream scenario. And if he has to take less than max money at some point to make it happen, then so be it.
Instead of this meaning he would leave the team, LeBron could help his team bring more talent to compete in the next couple of seasons. He's still a terrific player that can bring a lot to the table, but a 37-year-old leading a title contender it's never good, no matter how great LeBron is.
If they can bring the right pieces, the Lakers could bounce back after a terrible season. They need to think this through before messing up as they did with Russell Westbrook last year.