James agreed to a four-year, $154 million contract with the Lakers on Sunday, according to his agent. For the first time in his NBA career, James will be playing in the Western Conference, and as so many have been speculating for almost a year now, he will be moving out to Los Angeles to do so. It's somewhat surprising that James made his decision so early on in free agency, especially considering that the Lakers missed out on signing Paul George and haven't been able to acquire fellow superstar Kawhi Leonard via trade. However, it's clear that James has had his sights set on Los Angeles, whether they were ready to immediately compete for a championship or not. With that said, it's likely the Lakers will do everything in their power this offseason to turn some of their young assets like Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma into elite, veteran talent via trades because James may not have many years left where he is able to produce at a superstar level.
James (hand) will not exercise his $35.6 million player option for the 2018-19 season, making him an unrestricted free agent, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com reports. James' decision to not opt into his contract isn't very surprising, as it gives the superstar talent complete freedom to make his free agency decision this offseason. It also likely takes teams like the Rockets, who needed James to opt in so they could trade for him, out of the running. Still, free agency will largely be at a standstill until James makes his decision, as his decision will likely be the driving force behind those of other teams and players. But now, upon his decision to not exercise his player option, the Lakers, Cavaliers and 76ers still appear to be the three favorites to land James this offseason.
James told reporters following Friday's series clinching defeat to the Warriors that he played the previous three games with a hand injury, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reports. The injury was reportedly sustained after James punched a black board in the locker room following the Cavaliers' Game 1 loss. He subsequently underwent two MRIs and had been wearing a soft cast behind closed doors. The All Star kept the issue quiet in order to keep the Warriors from knowing. The injury did not do much to slow him down, as he finished the series with averages of 34.0 points, 8.5 boards, 10.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.0 blocks, and 1.5 triples across 44.7 minutes per game. He will now have all offseason to recover from a one of the heaviest workloads a player has seen during the postseason grind in recent memory.
James had 23 points (7-13 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 9-11 FT), eight assists, seven rebounds and one steal in 40 minutes during Friday's 108-85 loss to the Warriors. James appeared tired Friday, not surprising after his outstanding playoff run. While he still managed to lead the team with 23 points, he was far from the player he had been across the first three games of the Finals. He ends the season on a disappointing note, revealing after the game that he had basically been playing the last three games with a broken hand. There is clearly nothing to worry about moving into next season other than where exactly he is going to be playing. His decision is going be closely followed over the next couple of months and will certainly be a major factor in a number of other players free-agency moves.
James managed 33 points (13-28 FG, 1-6 3Pt, 6-7 FT), 11 assists, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks across 47 minutes during Cleveland's 110-102 loss to the Warriors in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday. James put up another valiant, stat-sheet-busting effort, but it ultimately wasn't enough on a night when Kevin Durant was just a bit better. James also dealt with some physical challenges, as he appeared to roll his ankle in the first half. However, he ultimately spent just one minute off the floor during the entirety of the contest, and has sat for just four minutes total over the first three games. With the Cavaliers' season on the line in Friday's Game 4, a full 48-minute workload isn't out of the question for the perennial All-Star, who's averaging 37.7 points, 10.7 assists, 9.0 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks thus far in the series.
Last 7 Games
|3 Year Avg||73||699||51.9||110||34.3||364||70.4||1872||25.64||3400|