April 13, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Sources – The Warriors made an offer to acquire LeBron James at the trade deadline

Sources – The Warriors made an offer to acquire LeBron James at the trade deadline

During a secret 24-hour period before last Thursday's trade deadline that included owner-to-owner talks, the Golden State Warriors made a failed attempt to convince the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James to consider a deal to pair him with their old rival. Stephen Curry's sources told ESPN.

The Warriors were eager to offer a deal package to Los Angeles, but neither the Lakers nor James were ultimately willing to explore a potential blockbuster trade. Even at 39 years old, James is still playing at the NBA level, which has sparked Warriors' imaginations about his potential to expand the window of a fading franchise's dynasty.

Armed with encouragement from Warriors star Draymond Green, Golden State owner Joe Lacob reached out to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss to inquire whether James' apparent public frustration could be interpreted as an opportunity to discuss a trade, sources said.

Buss told Lacob that the Lakers had no desire to trade James, but would need to get an answer about James' state of mind from his agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, sources said. Sources said Buss, as an owner, operated with the mindset that she wanted her stars to be satisfied with the franchise, which is what led her to consider turning the Warriors' leadership over to James' representation.

If the Lakers want to check James' commitment temperature, this is their chance. Ultimately, the answer came back resoundingly on the eve of the trade deadline: Rich Paul told Warriors GM Mike Dunleavy Jr. that James had no interest in a trade and wanted to remain a Laker, sources said. When Dunleavy reached out to Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka in the pre-trade deadline hours, Dunleavy was told the same thing: The Lakers wanted to keep James, sources said.

Earlier Wednesday, sources said Green — who is also represented by Paul at Klutch — sent Paul a text message asking for his help in convincing James to join him in Golden State. Once upon a time, Green was the lead recruiter in Kevin Durant's free agency signing with Golden State, but this was a much different, far more futile pursuit than an eleventh-hour pursuit.

Dunleavy was the second team executive to contact Pelinka about a potential trade for James, sources said. After seeing James' mysterious social media post of an hourglass a week before the trade deadline, Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey called Pelinka to investigate a trade for James and was immediately told that James was unavailable. Pelinka actually responded by asking Morey if Joel Embiid was available, sources said. And with that, that short conversation ended. This type of bold trade call is historically common practice for Morey, who also called the Phoenix Suns and asked about a trade for Durant before the deadline, sources said. When he was told no, Morey then asked about the availability of Devin Booker and Bradley Beal as well. Unsurprisingly, these numbers are as well, sources said.

The back and forth between the Warriors and Lakers varied because it started at the ownership level and involved Buss referring the Warriors to James' representation to verify for themselves James' commitment to the Lakers.

The Warriors could reconsider the pursuit this offseason when James holds a $51.4 million player option on his contract for 2024-25. If James returns to the Lakers, he will likely do so by declining that option and re-signing with Los Angeles to a new deal that would allow him an annual raise. Sources told ESPN that James remains focused on returning to the Lakers in the offseason, but there will undoubtedly be several such suitors — including Golden State and Philadelphia — who emerge to make cases to convince James otherwise.

The Lakers and Warriors were locked in at the trade deadline. The Lakers are hoping they can make a more significant roster upgrade this offseason, when they have three future first-round picks available to use in trades, sources said.

The Warriors have had substantive talks about several trade scenarios, including with Chicago's Alex Caruso and Utah's Kelly Olynyk, but have only reached a deal to free up money to move guard Corey Joseph, sources said. Golden State faces the possibility of unrestricted free agency for four-time championship guard Klay Thompson.

Currently, the Lakers and Warriors are split ninth and 10th in the Western Conference playoff race. For now, they will remain on parallel paths and leave eleventh-hour talks in the wake of trade deadline week.

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