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For the third time, yes, LeBron James is switching teams.
After leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to four straight appearances in the Finals, and the Miami Heat to four straight before that, James will try his hand in the Western Conference … as his agency announced on Instagram that James is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers.
After leading the Cavaliers to their lone championship in 2016, James clearly felt it’s no longer about just basketball.
He wants to plant a flag in Hollywood. And at 33 years old, that may not be such a bad idea. Everyone needs to prepare for retirement.
According to reports, James has agreed to a four-year deal with the Lakers for $154 million.
Year 1 could potentially be his greatest challenge. The Lakers weren’t very good last season. They are awfully young. The Golden State Warriors are an absolute basketball beast.
Oh, and the Lakers are the team with Lonzo Ball’s dad hanging around and running his mouth. If you think LeBron alone can create a circus atmosphere, just wait until you get a load of LeBron AND LaVar.
None of this is to say James is mailing it in. He wants to win. The Lakers could still land some top-notch free agent, such as DeMarcus Cousins. They could still swing a trade, maybe, for San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard.
There are new rumors they might pursue Toronto Raptors All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, who is said to be available.
Change could still be coming to LA.
There is no questioning the Lakers’ tradition, their passionate fan base, the fact it is the center of the movie-making universe.
But they aren’t home. And for James, home is where the heart is — just not always where he wants to live and play basketball year-round.
CAVS STILL HERE
So what’s it mean for the Cavaliers?
Well, it again stings, just as it did in 2010 when James left for the Heat. They are sort of left holding a bag of some overpaid veterans, some of whom (here’s looking at you, J.R. Smith) were able to get large deals because of their relationship with LeBron.
Now, the Cavs will see what they become with the likes of Kevin Love and rookie lottery pick Collin Sexton.
Now, they will see what they might be able to get in return for Love.
Now, they will put their best foot forward and try to keep pro basketball a thing in Cleveland. On the bright side, they have gone through this before. General manager Koby Altman and owner Dan Gilbert should be well-versed in what NOT to do.
While Altman wasn’t the GM last time, he was employed by the team during a portion of its dark ages stretch from 2010-14.
The Cavs are also a veteran team that has won — a lot. At worst, they are better prepared for this than they were when LeBron split in 2010.
This time, they at least believed it could happen. This time, they can decide on a direction and roll with it.
They will determine whether to be the Little Engine That Could and win as much as possible, or try to gut the roster and start losing.
But the latter can build an endless cycle of losing and building … and building and losing … and creating a losing culture.
All the Cavs are sure of at this point is that James came back to save them before. But he never will again.
He is a member of the Lakers now, and it is best for everyone at least that much is finally known.