Plaschke: LeBron James’ new contract guarantees one thing – no more Lakers mediocrity

Two more guaranteed years of james lebron?

Two more years of history, two more years of glamour, two more years of buzz.

Two more years of injury reports, two more years of bad drama, two more years of embarrassing mediocrity.

So, Lakers fans, how do you see this?

If you like your basketball with bells and whistles, you’ll react to Wednesday’s news of James’ new contract with a cheer.

If you like it with Championships, however, you’ll react with a sigh.

Me, I think I’m going to scream.

James is arguably the greatest player in basketball history and will undoubtedly make league headlines this season when he passes. Kareem Abdul Jabbar becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. There was a time when building on the final year of his contract with a two-year extension worth $97.1 million would have been a brilliant move for a team in contention for the title.

This is not the time, and this is not this place.

An organization in need of a massive rebuild just signed up for a flashy rerun. A franchise lacking in youth and depth has just tied its fortunes to a guy who will play his guaranteed final season at 39.

James will play for the Lakers this season under the terms of his current contract and is guaranteed to play here next season in the first year of the extension and then could possibly play here in the 2024-25 season as the contract contains an option of player. . So, two-year warrantywith the possibility of a third year, and that’s too much.

A team that must build for the future gets stuck in the past, forgoing substance for sizzle, clinging to an aging star even as the sky falls around it.

Supporters of James’ new contract will say it sets the Lakers up to win now. With James signed on as a cornerstone, the Lakers could now feel the freedom to loosen the grip on those 2027 and 2029 first-round picks and strike a deal for a veteran scorer. With no cap space in the immediate future, they could also be inspired to take over the kind of bad contract that’s often required in an NBA trade.

Bottom line, this extension could mean that, yes, hallelujah, the Lakers can now trade Russell Westbrook.

But think for a moment what this expansion entails.

This first assumes that James is still capable of leading a team to a full season championship. The truth is that it is not.

In his three full seasons with the Lakers — not counting the abbreviated Bubble Championship in 2020 — James has led his group to exactly zero playoff wins and just one playoff appearance. He can’t do it alone anymore, and he can’t do it with fragile people anymore. Anthony Davisand now the Lakers won’t be able to bring him another superstar while he’s here.

The extension also assumes that James will be healthy enough to be the Lakers’ full-time leader during the regular season. The painful reality is that he won’t.

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook welcomes forwards LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony.

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook waves, from left, to LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony as he is introduced before a preseason game against the Golden State Warriors on October 12, 2021.

(Ringo HW Chiu/Associated Press)

In those three full seasons, he averaged 52 games. That means he missed an average of 30 games a year. That’s more than two missed months a year. Yet they give him an even longer contract? How does that make sense?

Yes, James was timeless and tough and amazing last season, averaging 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists. But if an athlete’s most important ability is availability, he’s failed again.

Perhaps the biggest argument against extending James can be found in what might have happened had he been allowed to walk after this season when his contract expired.

Had James left, the Lakers could have entered the 2023-24 season with over $70 million in cap space. That would be enough to bring in one superstar while setting the stage for another the following year. Now it’s a rebuild.

Instead, unsurprisingly, the Lakers opted to tighten their grip on the slumped shoulders of the biggest sports star on the planet in a move that seemed more about his fame than his game.

It’s like the Lakers said, OK, we’re going to be mediocre for the next two seasons anyway, so why not at least keep the one player who makes us watchable?

Instead of starting the hard work to become great again, they decided to settle for being an attraction again. It may be the Hollywood way, but contrary to popular belief, it was never the Lakers way.

And, by the way, don’t you dare compare that with Kobe Bryant’s two-year, $48 million contract that carried his damaged body through the end of his Lakers career. In this town, LeBron James is not Kobe Bryantand it never will be.

Despite initial criticism in this space, Bryant’s deal proved to be worth the parting shot, while James hasn’t been a Laker long enough, or tied closely enough to the community, to be considered a true icon of the Lakers.

Nonetheless, this extension undoubtedly proves that James shares a trait with previous Lakers stars. James apparently leads the team, which could be problematic when he reaches the optional part of his contract before the 2024 season.

Remember when James told Athletic he wanted to play in the NBA with his son Bronny? Along with putting undue pressure on his son, who is considered a Top 50 prospect as he enters his senior season at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon High, James’ comments could also place the same heat on the Lakers. to draft the son when eligible two years from now or risk losing the father.

Another two guaranteed years from LeBron James?

A move that would normally bring out the purple and gold flags was more like raising a white flag.

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