LeBron James hints at Lakers departure in postgame interview?

LeBron James still thinks he can win a championship. It sounds like that might not be in Los Angeles.

James broke the all-time scoring record Tuesday night in LA. The Lakers also lost for the fourth time in six games to fall a game and a half out of 12th place.

So when James discussed his future with Shaquille O’Neal after the game, he pointedly did not say that his future was with the Lakers.

“I know I can play a couple more years,” James told Shaq. “It’s all about my mind. If my mind is still into it, if I’m still motivated to go out and compete for championships, I feel like I can do that for any group of guys, or any franchise.”

“Any franchise” seems to mean “not necessarily the Lakers.” James can’t be traded this season, but he has only one year left on his contract after the season, plus a player option for 2024-25. After a second straight losing season and a third straight non-contending season, James may be ready to go elsewhere.

James lives in Los Angeles and has many interests in entertainment that make LA an ideal home. But is it his ideal place to play basketball? After the disappointing 2021-22 season, the Lakers’ biggest moves were signing Lonnie Walker IV and trading for Rui Hachimura. With Anthony Davis always battling injuries and Russell Westbrook always being Russell Westbrook, “King James” hasn’t had a lot of help.

Perhaps the Lakers also sense that James might ask out after the season. That could be why management has been so hesitant to trade their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks all year. If this is their last year with James, they’re going to need picks to rebuild.

Of course, there is still time for the trade deadline. Perhaps this is James putting pressure on the Lakers to add players this week, with the implied threat of his departure. LeBron’s motivated to win championships. It remains to be seen how motivated the Lakers front office is.

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