Why Warriors' LeBron trade inquiry is natural move for Lacob

Why Warriors' LeBron trade inquiry is natural move for Lacob originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The NBA's hottest topic on Valentine’s Day 2024 began with, of all avenues, a Jan. 30 post on social media.

When LeBron James turned to X, formerly known as Twitter, to post a simple hourglass emoji, the entire NBA got the message. He is a 39-year-old superstar on a middling Lakers and time is running out.

It should not be a surprise that the Warriors, specifically overtly ambitious CEO Joe Lacob, would be intrigued. The team was performing below its lofty standard and, with the trade deadline looming, the front office was determined to pursue moves that might save the season.

So determined that Lacob, per deeply sourced ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, personally reached out to Lakers CEO Jeannie Buss to inquire about James’ availability.

Why? Because LeBron seemed to get getting restless. Because even at LeBron’s advanced athletic age, his skills remain intact and elite. Because pairing him with Golden State superstar Stephen Curry not only could set the franchise on a course toward the NBA Finals but also remind the rest of league that the Warriors always, always, always aim for the thermosphere.

The Warriors, like the rest of the NBA universe, know James has mentioned Curry as someone with whom he’d like to play. Through their classic rivalry rooted in four consecutive NBA Finals wars – and it was testy at times – the future Hall of Famers share an abundance of mutual respect.

Lacob is aware of this. So is Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy. Same with coach Steve Kerr. Same with Draymond Green, who has a tight and very public friendship with LeBron.

Green, per the ESPN report, reached out to his agent, Rich Paul, who also represents James, to get his thoughts. It’s reasonable to believe Draymond and LeBron, at some point, pondered the possibility. The Warriors-Lakers talks never got serious because LeBron stated his desire to remain with Los Angeles.

So, there never was a proposed deal between the teams. The Warriors never made an offer and the Lakers never asked for one.

That Lacob was willing to make the call, however, indicates his frustration had reached a point that he was willing to seek ways to add James and what remains of his $47.6 million annual salary to the Golden State roster.

For salary-matching purposes, any proposed deal likely would have included Klay Thompson ($43.2 million, expiring) – or either Chris Paul ($30.8 million, last year of guarantee) or Andrew Wiggins ($24.3 million, first season of a four-year contract), along with two or three more Warriors.

Could this revelation result in some discomfort in Golden State’s locker room? Possible but not likely. We’re a week past the NBA trade deadline and this should not be news to anyone who might have been involved.

This news of a discussion that went nowhere is, above all, a fresh gesture of Golden State’s approaching to obtaining and maintaining excellence.

When Lacob realized Jerry West was available 13 years ago, he reached out and lured him in. When Lacob knew Rick Welts was an executive dealmaker of the highest order, he reached out in 2011 and lured him in.

When Lacob knew Kevin Durant would be a free agent in the summer of 2016, he arranged an all-hands-on-deck recruiting squad that prevailed.

When July comes, the Warriors will be active in the trade market. Hyperactive if they fail to make an extended postseason run. Only Curry and Green, and maybe Jonathan Kuminga, will be off limits in discussions to make deals to reclaim legitimate contender status.

This is not an operation willing to sit on its storied past. It is, rather, a place where any signs of complacency are removed like a malignant tumor.

The Warriors think big, and Lacob is the biggest voice in the room. They’ll always aim high, sometimes implausibly high, because he realizes that is sets a tone for the franchise and establishes its standard.

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