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Imagine Trading LeBron James Out Of Spite? That Apparently Almost Happened

Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls

(Bleacher Report) – A Western Conference owner said he would consider dealing for James but with conditions. “Depends on what I’d have to give up,” he said. “I wouldn’t roll up the truck and give more than one protected first[-round pick].”

To be clear, the Lakers have given no indication that they are considering what former NBA coach and current ESPN broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy is credited with first publicly suggesting: that to rebound from what looks to be a sixth consecutive losing season and sixth straight trip to the lottery despite James’ addition last summer, the Lakers should “explore” trading the four-time MVP. While the Lakers advertised his arrival as only the first step toward building another title contender, oddsmakers had them comfortably making the playoffs with a 13- or 14-win jump from last season’s 35. Instead, they are 31-36 and 6.5 games out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with 15 contests left. At their current pace, James’ addition will result in a three-win improvement.

The subject of moving James, however, was contemplated by the Lakers, a team source said, weeks before Van Gundy aired it. When rumors engulfed the team at the February trade deadline that it was willing to trade anyone other than James to acquire All-Star forward Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans, James’ agent, Rich Paul, was widely accused of spreading those rumors because Davis is also one of his clients. Paul denied to B/R that he leaked the Lakers’ interest in Davis, but Buss suspected otherwise and was furious. The idea of terminating the franchise’s relationship with Paul by moving James at least crossed Buss’ mind, the team source said, and Paul was made aware of that. That prompted Paul to reach out to Buss to clear the air, and whatever ill will existed supposedly dissipated. At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a few weeks later, Buss blamed the media for making the rumors public.

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I think we all laughed a few days ago when Jeff Van Gundy dropped this idea on National TV

I see his point, if you’re the Lakers you theoretically should be looking at every single option to make your team better, and obviously moving LeBron is crazy and pretty unthinkable, but he would net you a pretty good return in my opinion. I think it’d be pretty funny if they sent him to like Atlanta or Orlando or Phoenix. It’s not as if LeBron has a no trade clause so what happens? Does he retire? Fake an injury and sit out the year? I almost want it to happen just for that drama.

But if we’re to believe Rich Bucher here, that crazy scenario maybe wasn’t all that crazy because of the actions of Rich Paul during the trade deadline. Obviously their attempt to get Anthony Davis at the trade deadline blew up in their faces and ruined their team and I find it funny that Rich Paul and Klutch tried to deny they were the leaks. Who with a brain would believe that? They were using the media every step of the way to help manipulate the market and it failed miserably, so I understand why Jeanie Buss was pissed. Now I don’t know how much I buy that she was so pissed that in the first year of the LeBron era she was entertaining the thought of trading him just to be done with Rich Paul since that’s pretty extreme. Not to mention he’s not the only Klutch client on the roster, and they have made it pretty known they plan on going after another Klutch guy in Davis this summer and if they don’t get him then they’ll try again when he hits the market. Maybe she realized that every big time free agent and their mother is signing with Rich Paul so no matter what if the Lakers wanted to bring in stars she was going to have to deal with Rich Paul.

It’s safe to say this would have been one of the craziest moves in recent NBA history, and part of me is a little sad Jeanie Buss didn’t go through with it. It’s not like the Lakers were all that good this season with LeBron on the floor anyway, I think they were around .500 in games he played, so why not do the smart thing and flip him for players that could actually help. It also makes me wonder what they do if the Lakers come up empty with big free agents because nobody wants to play with LeBron. At that point if he’s not helping you get back to the glory days, if it was any other player wouldn’t you be open to moving him? Sure LeBron is one of the greatest players of all time, but that doesn’t make him immune to being traded. He’s only getting older you know, so I wonder how long the Lakers front office will put up with his bullshit if it’s not providing any real results.