July 19, 2024

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LeBron James reportedly intends to opt out of his Lakers contract but is expected to sign a new contract with Los Angeles

LeBron James reportedly intends to opt out of his Lakers contract but is expected to sign a new contract with Los Angeles

LeBron James is reportedly planning to opt out of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for next season, but he won’t remain a free agent for long.

Ahead of Saturday’s deadline to make his decision, the 39-year-old star declined his $51.4 million player option, but is expected to return to the Lakers on a new deal in free agency, according to multiple reports.

The last time he was a free agent, James joined the Lakers in 2018, signing a four-year, $154 million contract to move to the West. He signed a two-year, $97.1 million extension with Los Angeles in 2022, which included a player option for next season.

James is eligible to sign a three-year, $162 million contract at the maximum to return to the Lakers in free agency. He is also eligible to sign with any other NBA team for a maximum of $157.5 million over the next three seasons. (The NBA limits contracts for players over the age of 38 to a maximum of three years.)

The 39-year-old is the oldest active player in the NBA, but he shows no signs of slowing down. James averaged 25.7 points (on 54/41/75), 8.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game last season, making third team all-NBA. He led the Lakers to a championship berth and the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. They lost to the Denver Nuggets in the opening round of the playoffs.

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Although his free agency decisions are unclear, James has said he wants to retire as a Laker during the 2024 All-Star Weekend in February.

“I’m a Laker, and I’ve been very happy to be a Laker for the last six years, and I hope it stays that way,” James said, before making his record 20th All-Star appearance.

Another consideration is James’ son, Bronny, who was selected by the Lakers with the 55th pick overall on Thursday. James has repeatedly said he hopes to play his final NBA season with Bronny, but he recently said he wouldn’t necessarily leave the Lakers to join his son if he were drafted by another team, and his agent Rich Paul made clear the two are not a package deal.

At this point, the Philadelphia 76ers are the only championship contender with maximum salary cap space. James could also orchestrate a sign-and-trade deal elsewhere or sign anywhere for less than the veteran minimum, though, Paul All of that is ruled out. The latest from ESPN’s Jonathan Givony.

“LeBron is not going to Phoenix for a minimum deal,” Paul said. “We can end this now.”

At the very least, James will take a pay cut for the 2024-2025 season. His $50 million starting salary cap is about $1.5 million less than his option to play for the Lakers. By becoming a free agent, he can now negotiate a no-trade clause with the Lakers as well as secure a long-term contract. This remains the most likely scenario. James’ family and non-basketball businesses are based in Los Angeles.

The Lakers also recently hired James’ podcast co-host JJ Redick as the team’s new head coach on a four-year contract.

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