Roster Flexibility Is A Flexible Term

So let’s review, because the holiday is upon us and we’re not going to spend a lot of time sorting out this particular migraine:

LeBron James opted out of the last year of his current contract, which pays $51.4 million. Then there were rumors he might take a much lower deal to free up money for the Lakers to dabble in the free-agency market (or as his agent Rich Paul said, “prioritizing a roster improvement”). Then Paul said LeBron might not sign a new three-year, $162 million max deal for the same reason (he could not get more than three years because of the NBA’s new over-38 rule). Then James signed a new two-year max deal—one year plus a player option—for $104 million, but according to itinerant phone junkie Adrian Wojnarowski he might be willing to take $1 million off the top to allow the Lakers to stay below the second tax apron and allow for more—you guessed it—roster flexibility.

So for the sake of roster flexibility, James ditched a max deal and declined another max deal to sign a max deal minus one percent, and while he got new coach JJ Redick to refer to his son Bronny as having “absolutely earned” his draft selection, he lost Klay Thompson to Dallas. You give a little, you take a little. Well, you take a lot, really.

James hasn’t taken any kind of a discount on a deal since 2010, and he is not only under no obligation to do so, he would be mad if he did. But if he were going to take a discount for the roster, the only way it would make sense is if he took the lowest amount possible and the Lakers could go deep-diving. He wouldn’t take a deal like that for Thompson, let alone Jonas Valanciunas or DeMar DeRozan, so what we’ve gotten out of this week is LeBron adding a year and an option onto his current contract for the roster flexibility of getting his son on the team.

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All of which is fine and dandy. If two powerhouse operations like the Mavericks and Celtics are in the process of selling to new owners even with a new media deal on the horizon, there is a kind of wisdom in preferring not to own a team but to own the owner. That would be a temporary condition as even James isn’t likely to play much beyond AARP years, but for the moment he runs the Lakers with everything but the benefit of equity. In the current Laker conundrum, James’ magnanimity doesn’t really make much difference so he might as well get the whole bag. Minus of course that $1 million which makes all the difference between seventh place and … seventh and a half.

We did spend a week on it anyway, and we can say that LeBron did his best to improve the roster by providing his son, and all it cost him is nothing. As gigs go, that’s hard to beat.


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