LeBron's postgame comment fuels Warriors speculation despite obstacles

LeBron's postgame comment fuels Warriors speculation despite obstacles

LeBron's postgame comment fuels Warriors speculation despite obstacles originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

LeBron James fueled the speculation fires following the Los Angeles Lakers' season-ending first-round NBA playoff series loss to the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

Shortly after the Lakers' 108-106 loss at Ball Arena, James sat at the podium and was asked about his NBA future.

"Tonight, was there any thought at all that this could have been your last game with the Lakers?," a reporter asked James.

The 21-year NBA veteran thought about his answer for a few seconds.

"Um. I'm not going to answer that," James said, ending his press conference and leaving the podium.

Naturally, the way James answered the question, with the smirk on his face, created a firestorm that he might not play for the Lakers next season.

And in typical fashion, Warriors fans started pondering the possibility of James joining Steph Curry in San Francisco.

But getting LeBron to the Bay Area isn't as easy as some members of Dub Nation want it to be.

The 39-year-old James has a $51 million player option for the 2024-25 season, and as ESPN's Brian Windhorst points out, the Warriors don't have that kind of salary cap flexibility if the four-time NBA champion were to opt out of his Lakers contract to become a free agent.

"LeBron's contract next year for the Lakers, if he opts in, calls for $51 million," Windhorst said on "Get Up" on Tuesday morning. "If he opts out, he is looking for a contract in that range. The Warriors have nothing like that. These other teams, whatever you want to get on the board, whether you want to say Team X, Team Y, remember, $50 million per year, multiple years, the Lakers can give him. The idea of LeBron going to play for another team for $10 million, mid-level exception or in the case of a tax-paying team, $6 million, even if you're going to cook up some scheme on a sign-and-trade contract, the Lakers would have to approve of that.

"Before you enter Fantasyland, don't forget about that salary. Salary is important. I know LeBron has made a lot of money. He wants to buy an NBA team. You don't buy an NBA team leaving $50 million on the table."

The Warriors made calls to the Lakers regarding James' availability before the February NBA trade deadline, but negotiations never got very far.

Now, a possible LeBron-to-Warriors maneuver appears to be much tougher.

Of course, James wants to play with his son Bronny, who entered the 2024 NBA Draft, so if the Warriors select the 19-year-old USC guard, that would dramatically shift conversations.

But for the moment, James, looking for any sliver of leverage against the Lakers, left the door open that he might explore other opportunities.

Don't expect the chatter to die down until James inks a new Lakers contract or the 2024-25 NBA season tips off with him in a different jersey.

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