When news first broke that LeBron James had signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, it did not take long for the sports world to react on Twitter.
For the first time in his 15-year NBA career, James will not be playing in the Eastern Conference. The move to Los Angeles has been rumored for more than a year, and The King did not wait for the dominoes to fall before making up his mind. In fact, Paul George, who has been rumored to join James in LA, decided instead to sign a max deal and remain in Oklahoma City with the Thunder.
LeBron’s decision to leave Cleveland for Los Angeles has as much to do with his family and business interests off the court as it does with trying to win another title. As of Monday morning, Kawhi Leonard is still a member of the San Antonio Spurs, although he has expressed a strong desire to sign with the Lakers next summer as a free agent. The Lakers have already begun to fill out their bench, signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a $12 million contract, Lance Stephenson to the $4.4 million exception, and JaVale McGee for the league minimum. LA will continue to attract free agents this offseason who will take less money to play with James.
As far as the Western Conference, LeBron’s Lakers will slug it out with the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets for a chance to play in the Finals. Six other playoff teams last season (Blazers, Thunder, Jazz, Pelicans, Spurs, and T-Wolves) were separated by just two wins, so James will have his work cut out for him in 2018-19. Making the playoffs could be a big enough accomplishment for the Lakers, since they finished 12 games back of the final spot.
Even if the Lakers strike out and do not add any other significant players to their roster this offseason, the team is prepared to make a big run at the 2019 free agent class, when stars like Leonard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and Eric Bledsoe The Western Conference just became even more interesting for the next four years and Lakers basketball will once again be must-see TV.