LeBron James a Laker? It may be possible, ESPN reports

October 18, 2012

(Todd Kirkland / AP)

LeBron in La-la Land? Forget a return to Cleveland. When LeBron James becomes a free agent in 2014, he might just take his talents to the West Coast.

With Kobe Bryant saying that he sees himself playing only two more seasons, several team executives told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that they think the Los Angeles Lakers are maneuvering to rebuild around King James.

The immediate reaction is: how on earth would the Lakers pull this off with a sky-high luxury-tax bill if they re-sign Dwight Howard? Here’s how: In the 2014-15 season, Windhorst writes, the Lakers’ projected payroll is almost completely clear.

Only Nash is signed for that season, at $9.7 million, though the Lakers will also be paying about $20 million to Howard if they can re-sign him this coming summer.

In July 2014, Bryant’s $30.4 million, Pau Gasol’s $19.2 million, Metta World Peace’s $7.7 million, Steve Blake’s $4 million and Jordan Hill’s $3.5 million will come off the books. There likely won’t even be any first-round draft picks filling up the cap, either, as the Lakers have already traded their 2013 first-round pick to Phoenix in the Nash deal.

So maybe it isn’t as wild as it seemed.

“It’s not a mistake that all those deals end the same year Kobe’s does,” an unnamed general manager told Windhorst. “They have probably been planning for their next phase for a while. The Busses and [Lakers GM] Mitch [Kupchak] are always thinking about the next big deal.”

Bryant admitted as much to CBS Sports.com’s Ken Berger.

“Right after the series against Oklahoma, I just had a lot of belief in our organization,” Bryant said. “I knew how much the Buss family, Jeanie and so forth, wanted to turn it around. I had a lot of faith in the organization. I’ve seen them do it. They rebuilt first by picking up Shaq [O'Neal] … Then that era was over and they rebuilt again. And now they’ve rebuilt again. I’ve seen them do it before.”

Follow us: @CindyBoren | @MattBrooksWP

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After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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Matt Brooks · October 18, 2012

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