Will the Lakers be able to live up to the commitment LeBron James made to them?

Via Melissa Rohlin
FOX Sports NBA Writer

Guessing game around LeBron James‘futures ended on Wednesday when news broke that he had agreed to a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension with Los Angeles Lakers.

As first reported by ESPN, the deal includes a 15% commercial backer and could grow to more than $110 million with salary cap increases. His contract currently runs through the 2023-24 season and includes a player option for 2024-2025 when his son, Bronny, will qualify for the draft.

That’s a hefty salary for a 37-year-old, who turns 38 in December. But James shows no signs of slowing down during his time with the Lakers. Last season, he played MVP basketball and was runner-up for the scoring title with 30.3 points a game even though the Lakers missed the playoffs with a lousy 33-49 record.

James signing a contract extension is interesting in many ways.

LeBron James, Lakers agree to two-year, $97.1 million extension

Emmanuel Acho, Joy Taylor and Ric Bucher react to the news.

It allows James to focus on reviving the Lakers without the possibility of him suffocating under the toxic fog of rumors, an unfavorable game we saw him play last season when all was said and done. His is all scrutinized.

He once praised Oklahoma City owner Sam Presti during the All-Star weekend (making people question whether he was shooting at Lakers GM Rob Pelinka) or the time he told The Athletic that “the door hasn’t closed” when he plays in Cleveland again (which leaves everyone wondering if that’s a harbinger of what’s to come).

James had to play defensively off the field last season, a grueling prospect for a lad who had to shoulder the Lakers while Anthony Davis harmed by injury and Russell Westbrook struggles to find more success with his new lineup.

This, at least, will give James a chance to focus on basketball. Not to mention, he obviously loves Los Angeles. He posts countless videos on Instagram of him singing to his music as he walks the streets of the city or as he relaxes in his sunlit backyard. He often mocks his haters and implies that his happiness is insurmountable based on the quality of his life.

Jumping ship means leaving one of the top markets in the league and all it has to offer a player of his caliber, kicking his three kids out of their schools. and bring back a proud brand that just had their most painful season ever, all of which will obviously leave a dent in his lifestyle and career.

Now, James has at least two shots that have brought the Lakers to greatness again, all while enjoying the perks of a city he enjoys.

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For the Lakers, the contract extension is attractive because it shows their deep commitment to him despite his aging. There have been calls from fans as well as analysts asking the team to trade him – and although James is said to have no prohibition clause in his contract, it is clear that the team won’t go that route.

And honestly, why should they?

In 2020, James leads the Lakers to the championship. In 2020-2021, he has had some of the highest assists of his career. And last season, he was their only salvation, scoring multiple goals with 50 points in a season in which the Lakers seemed unable to keep Davis on the field – and seemingly unable to get Westbrook to catch up.

The Lakers gave Kobe Bryant a sizable contract extension at the twilight of his career (two years, $48.5 million) even though he suffered an Achilles injury from which he never fully recovered. As an organization, they clearly value loyalty to their stars and with James’ new contract he will stay at the Lakers for at least six seasons, the second longest after seven consecutive seasons. his with the Cavaliers.

There is a school of thought that believes it is unwise to give James a contract extension of such a size. It would be one thing if he took less money to give the Lakers more flexibility in building their roster (a James Harden in Philly), but that’s clearly not on the cards.

So while the Lakers expand James’s light on his future, it doesn’t do much to illuminate their own. It’s clear they’re trying to buy Westbrook and his $47.1 million signing, and it’s highly unlikely that will change, especially since James and Westbrook haven’t spoken publicly. when they attended the same recent Lakers game in the Summer League in Las Vegas.

Even if the Lakers trade Westbrook for another expiring contract, Davis and James will earn a combined total of more than $86 million in 2023-2024, which would make the acquisition of a third star in 2023. is a challenge. There’s no shortage of them getting something of value out of Westbrook’s big salary, whether it’s Kyrie Irving or a combination of starting caliber players.

Then again, the Lakers don’t have a third star when they win it all in 2020, so if they can manage to upgrade their supporting cast, maybe they can be the main contenders. candidate again.

Now, James and the Lakers just need to figure out how to get back to good. James made it to the NBA Finals eight straight seasons from 2011-2018 before joining the Lakers, where he missed the knockout stages twice.

Before James turns 40, he has two more to try to lead the Lakers to greatness again.

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter at @melissarohlin.

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