Despite an offseason in which the Lakers brought in Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to compete for a championship, there are reportedly some who believe the team could already be targeting LeBron James.
According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, several teams' executives have said they believe the Lakers are positioning themselves to make a run at James in 2014, when the reigning MVP can choose to become a free agent.
Now, it should be noted that this report is really speculative at this point, as only those in the Lakers' front office truly know whether or not James' name has come up in talks about the future. But it's an interesting idea, nonetheless.
Kobe Bryant has said in the past that he could retire after two more seasons, meaning — as Windhorst points out — his $30.4 million, Pau Gasol's $19.2 million, Metta World Peace's $7.7 million, Steve Blake's $4 million and Jordan Hill's $3.5 million are slated to come off the books. That would leave Steve Nash ($9.7 million) and Howard, if he is eventually re-signed, as the only players signed for that season.
Obviously, a lot can change between now and then, and James is technically signed through 2016 and could choose to stick around in Miami. But observers around the league reportedly expect James to opt out of his contract after the 2014 season no matter what, which would make the superstar a free agent once again.
"It's not a mistake that all those deals end the same year Kobe's does. They have probably been planning for their next phase for a while," one general manager told ESPN.com. "The Busses and [Lakers GM] Mitch [Kupchak] are always thinking about the next big deal."
That next big deal would be a huge deal.