LeBron James’ agent, Rich Paul, said last week that his client would not ask for a trade or be traded by the Los Angeles Lakers. James, however, added some speculative fuel to the rumor mill fire ahead of the NBA’s trade deadline on Thursday and beyond.
The 39-year-old future Hall of Famer admitted before his Lakers defeated the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night that he did not know his plans following the 2023-24 season. He has a player option in his contract and with the Lakers battling just to stay in the Western Conference playoff picture, testing the waters of free agency could be in the cards.
When asked about potentially playing for the Knicks, he said, “I’ve had that thought in my career.” (h/t Stefan Bondy, New York Post)
But how feasible could that idea be?
It would seem almost impossible for the Knicks and Lakers to work out a deal before Thursday’s deadline. The price would be significant for New York, meaning they’d have to give up a player like All-Star Julius Randle — currently out with a dislocated shoulder — and at least one first-round draft pick.
Unlike in seasons past, James isn’t a necessity for New York, either.
Despite the loss to the Lakers on Saturday night and the injury to Randle, the Knicks are still the hottest team in the NBA having gone 15-3 in their last 18 games which included a nine-game win streak.
Jalen Brunson’s emergence as a superstar has been supplemented by Tom Thibodeau’s trademark defense and in the process, has created a well-oiled machine that appears perfectly balanced. So much so that they’re still very much competitive without their second-leading scorer in Randle. A blockbuster for James would understandably throw off the balance of a side that is likely more concerned with looking for backcourt help.
Should James become available via free agency this summer, an all-out pursuit from New York isn’t necessarily a no-brainer, even if it is a player of “The King’s” caliber. For a franchise that has been unable to roll out a consistent contender, the Knicks appear to have the pieces necessary to do just that.
Uprooting Randle or the newly acquired OG Anunoby — the spark that set the Knicks in motion last month — would appear especially foolhardy for a player who will be 40 next season. Even if it is LeBron James.