But this most recent rumor? The one from Roland Lazenby that suggests LeBron James has begun to make it known to the Lakers that they are his destination of choice next season? Now, at this very moment, things have officially gone too far.
Before we tear down the notion that this could possibly ever happen in our universe, it's probably best that we start with the obligatory citation:
The greatest NBA free agent of all time, LeBron James, is quietly making overtures to the Los Angeles Lakers.
He wants to play for them. And James is not all that concerned whether Kobe Bryant is part of the equation. Bryant, of course, has yet to sign a contract extension with L.A. and could wind up a free-agent himself, albeit one with high mileage.
But the overtures have been made. LeBron wants to wear the purple and gold. Mainly, he wants to wear a championship ring, which means he wants to play for Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
Where does one begin with statements as silly as these? Let's start with Kobe Bryant.
It's true that Bryant hasn't yet signed an extension with the Lakers, and that yes, if he wanted to, he could become a free agent. But no one in their right mind actually thinks this will happen; Bryant is simply waiting until the season is over to get the contract stuff done so as not to let it become a distraction during the team's campaign to try to repeat as champions. Bryant is going to end his career as a member of the Lakers, and it would take a highly unlikely series of circumstances to prevent him from doing so.
One of the theories where Bryant might not continue with the Lakers revolves around the re-signing (or not) of the team's current head coach, Phil Jackson. Just as Lazenby has in the past, at the end of this current piece on LeBron and his "overtures," he details the supposed power struggle going on behind the scenes in the Lakers front office. Specifically, the fact that Phil Jackson's deal too is up at the end of this season, and that, at a price of $12 million a season, the team's ownership may want to go in another direction.
Bryant is likely to be very vocal when it comes to the team retaining Jackson's services, and the fact that he has his yet-to-be-signed extension as a bargaining chip makes it all the more likely that Phil will be back as the head coach for as long as he wants to be. And this is where the pairing of LeBron and Kobe begins to fall apart. Because unless Bryant and his max contract leave town, how in the world are the Lakers supposed to fit James and his (required) max deal under the team's salary cap?
The simple answer is, they're not. LeBron James doesn't get to play with Kobe Bryant and be coached by Phil Jackson, unless the team completely guts itself of all essential components to a run at a championship. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum: all gone, if LeBron is to be signed by the Lakers.
So yeah, there's no way this is happening. Did Lazenby simply make this up? Of course not; he cites one of his "best inside sources, a close Jackson associate," and even quotes this person a few times throughout the article.
An anonymous source is a journalist's best friend, especially one that can be quoted with fairly innocuous comments, which can later be extrapolated into something much more ominous that would have a juicier impact on the league at large.
Just to be perfectly clear, I'm not insinuating in any way that Lazenby is fabricating any of this. But it's so preposterous that it is, at the very least, irresponsible to write this up with a "LeBron a Laker?" headline. Even for someone who, not so coincidentally, has a new book out on Lakers legend Jerry West, and links to its Amazon.com purchase page at the end of the story.