LeBron James comes to the Lakers: complete coverage


LeBron James is coming to the Lakers. The four-time NBA MVP and three-time league champion chose the Lakers within the first 24 hours of NBA free agency, agreeing to a four-year deal worth $154 million, which he can sign as early as July 6. James’ decision changes the league’s balance of power and gives the Lakers front office led by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka a long-anticipated offseason triumph. Check back here for all the latest developments.

Did a Lakers fan predict the future by naming his horse LeBron J?

Los Angeles seems to be getting flush with high-priced sports figures named LeBron.

Everyone knows about the main LeBron James, but out at Santa Anita is another one, an unraced 2-year-old colt named Lebron J with a pretty big upside.

And he’s not cheap, either, having been bought for $1.2 million at the Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic sale in May by Dubai-based Phoenix Thoroughbreds, the same group that owns the colt Gronkowski.

Phoenix Thoroughbred was founded by Amer Abdulaziz, a horse racing enthusiast. He also happens to be a huge James fan. His favorite team? The Lakers.

“We had the name reserved with the Jockey Club,” said Tom Ludt, a former Santa Anita executive who runs U.S. operations for Phoenix Thoroughbreds. “And then this 2-year-old comes along. He’s a really good looking, strong horse. Abdulaziz says, ‘I’m going to name him LeBron James,” although the name is actually Lebron J.

The horse was named right after he was bought and before James announced his decision to join the Lakers.

“I was making a joke to Amer,” Ludt said. “Let me get this straight, you’re a LeBron James fan and a Lakers fan living in Dubai, and LeBron goes to the Lakers. People are going to think you can predict the future.”

Phoenix Thoroughbreds, which was only formed last year, had success this year with Gronkowski, named for the New England Patriots tight end Rob. Gronkowski qualified for the Kentucky Derby but illness prevented him from running. Stabled in Dubai, he did ship to New York and finished second in the Belmont to Justify.

“I told Amer that just because he had success with Gronkowski that it’s not always going to work that way when you name horses after sports stars,” Ludt said. “It’s hit or miss. In this case we just tried to match the physical stature of the horse with the stature of the name.”

Phoenix also has an unraced 2-year-old named [Brett] Favre, who is being sent to Dubai and has the name [Bill] Belichick on reserve.

Lebron J was spotted by bloodstock agent Dennis O’Neill, who also found Kentucky Derby winners I’ll Have Another and Nyquist.

“Let’s put some pressure on him,” Ludt said. “Dennis said it was the best 2-year-old he’s seen at the sales this year. So, we stretched the budget.”

Lebron J will be trained by Dennis O’Neill’s brother, two-time Kentucky Derby winner Doug, who has already given the colt two three-furlong workouts.

“At this point, he hasn’t disappointed,” Doug O’Neill said. “It’s super early but he has a world of class and has all the tools. Now it’s just matter of seeing how he competes against multiple horses in a race setting.”

That race is likely to come at Del Mar, with an eye on early August.

“He was bought as a first Saturday in May [Kentucky Derby] horse,” Doug O’Neill said. “He may be able to win his first time out [at 5½ or 6 furlongs] but his pedigree screams that he needs more distance. But we’re optimistic and know he’ll get better with distance.”

While it was never the reason for naming a horse after a famous athlete, the ownership group is not opposed to having the athlete part of the entourage.

Ludt originally was hoping that Rob Gronkowski would just show up at a race or a workout, but after talking to his father, Gronkowski became very involved and agreed to buy a share of the horse.

They are hoping for the same with James.

“We would be happy if LeBron just showed some interest in the horse,” Ludt said. “We’d love to have him come to the races. But, if there is a chance, even a small chance, he wants to buy into the horse, we’ll sell him a share at a discount.”

Doug O’Neill sees it as a given if James visits the horse.

“When he sees him, he’ll say, ‘Oh, my God,’” O’Neill said. “He just takes your breath away.”

It’s a long road to the Kentucky Derby and if the Lakers have their wish, James won’t be able to see the horse run at Churchill Downs. They hope to be busy at that time, for the first time in six years.


If only the Clippers did not have to worry about the Lakers’ greatness again

For all their talents, Blake Griffin, left, and Chris Paul could not get the Clippers to the Western Conference finals.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

If only Blake Griffin hadn’t stepped on Lamar Odom’s foot. If only Donald Sterling hadn’t said the kinds of things Donald Sterling was fond of saying. If only Chris Paul hadn’t fumbled away a playoff game in Oklahoma City. If only Corey Brewer and Josh Smith didn’t stun the Clippers when they were a quarter away from franchise history. If only Griffin didn’t get into a fight with a team employee, if only he and Paul physically held up, if only the Clippers could have found joy in one another, in all the talent they amassed and all the winning they did.

If only.

These are the words the Los Angeles Clippers have to ask themselves after LeBron James decided to sign with the Lakers, undoubtedly focusing nearly all of the city’s attention on their Staples Center roommates instead of them.

Even when things were going well, it was still a Lakers town — it’s impossible to deny that. But the Lob City era — one, by the way, that’s been dismantled in a series of trades and free-agent fleeings over the last two seasons — had to win some hearts and minds, particularly from younger fans.

Even though that window was nearly all the way shut, now it’s sealed and boarded up.

When the Clippers snagged Paul away from the Lakers with an assist from the NBA, who vetoed a deal between the Lakers and the New Orleans Hornets, it began the best run of Clipper basketball in the organization’s spotty history.

In the seven seasons since the Paul trade, the Clippers won 355 games, eclipsing 50 wins five-straight times and making the playoffs six-straight years before finishing just on the outside of the postseason in 2018.

The seven winning seasons equaled the seven the organization had accumulated over three cities and 41 years.

The surge happened just as the Lakers were starting their swoon, Kobe Bryant’s career winding down, a super team built around him, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard a total bust.

In that same seven-season span after the Clippers acquired Paul, the Lakers won only 212 times, more than 25% fewer wins than the Clippers.

The Lakers were in tumult, their front office about to be reshaped from ownership down to general manager. They were starved of stars and, eventually, the losing was too much to handle, with the team’s sellout streak snapping after 320 early in the 2013 season.

During the same time, the Clippers ran their sellout streak to 280 games before it eventually got snapped early last season.

But the Clippers couldn’t truly make a dent in the Lakers’ mystique — they could only briefly cover it like they did the championship banners inside of the home they share.

Now, the Clippers are a young team that will need to play very well if they want to make the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference, a team where contention seems further off than the team’s proposed new arena in Inglewood.

If only a few playoff series had ended differently, if only they had gotten a little luckier, if only they had been a little better in the biggest moments, maybe the Clippers would’ve been able to capture more of the city’s attention, more of its fans.

But they weren’t.

Now with James wearing a Lakers jersey and stars surely on their way, whether this offseason or next, it’s going to be awhile before that window in Los Angeles gets cracked open again.


Congressman’s welcome to LeBron James: ‘Prepare to pay the highest taxes you ever have in your career!!’

Rep. Devin Nunes of California.
(Michael Reynolds / EPA-Shutterstock)

A member of California’s congressional delegation offered an unusual welcome to LeBron James on social media.

“LOL! Prepare to pay the highest taxes you ever have in your career!!” Rep. Devin Nunes, a Republican from the Central Valley who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted Sunday. “You should have held out for more just to afford the Moonbeam weather tax!!!”

The message came in response to the state Democratic Party tweeting its welcome to James after he agreed to a four-year, $154-million contract with the Lakers.

California’s top income tax rate of 13.3% is the highest in the country.


Dave Roberts could be sporting a goatee at the All-Star game now that LeBron James will be a Laker

Picture if you will, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts with a goatee. It might happen.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

The significance of LeBron James joining the Lakers spans far beyond the world of basketball. The long-term consequences for Los Angeles will become clearer over the four years of his contract.

One immediate effect could take shape at Major League Baseball’s All-Star game in the form of a goatee for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

As James approached free agency last week, Roberts joked that if James signed with the Lakers, Roberts would manage the National League in the Midsummer Classic with the same facial hair he sported during his 10-year playing career. Roberts was reminded of this before Monday’s series opener against Pittsburgh.

“Did I agree to that?” Roberts said. “So we signed LeBron, and I said I would grow my goatee out. I think I might do it.”

Dodgers officials indicated there were no immediate plans for James to visit Dodger Stadium. The prospect was considered unlikely. The wattage produced by James far exceeds any publicity to be generated by him throwing out the first pitch before a regular-season game.

Roberts said he had not yet reached out to congratulate Magic Johnson, the Lakers president who doubles as part owner of the Dodgers. But he could understand how Johnson sold James on a shared vision for the future of their franchise.

“There’s an aura about him that very few people have,” Roberts said. “The presence, positivity and trust. Obviously, if you’re courting a player like LeBron, those variable and opportunities, that’s a relationship I can see happening.”


The next decision: Where will LeBron James’ talented son Bronny play basketball?

One big question still unanswered with LeBron James’ move to the Lakers is which school his talented eighth-grade son, Bronny, will attend.

Bronny is considered an outstanding youth basketball player. Last month, former NBA player Gary Payton told an interviewer that Bronny had committed to Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, home to the likely No. 1 high school basketball team for 2018-19.

But a Sierra Canyon official said Monday that the school has had no contact with James or his family. Other private schools with middle schools near Brentwood, where the James family lives, include Brentwood, Windward and Crossroads.

“He’s a good guard,” Ronnie Flores of Cal-Hi Sports said of Bronny. “He’s not as physically advanced as his dad was at the same stage, but has a good feel and a chance to be very good.”


Can Rajon Rondo give Lonzo Ball a run for his money at point guard?

Lakers guard Lonzo Ball tries to power his way to the basket against Nuggets guard Jamal Murray during a game last season.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

The Lakers have a point guard competition.

One year after anointing Lonzo Ball as the face of the franchise, they signed Rajon Rondo to a one-year deal worth $9 million. They told the 32-year-old former NBA champion they’ll have an open competition for the job, according to sources familiar with the conversation.

Ball has received the message.

“Zo isn’t running from the competition,” said one source close to Ball who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

Rondo has aspirations of being a coach someday and is interested in mentoring players. But he firmly sees himself as a starter. Last season with the New Orleans Pelicans, Rondo started in 63 of the 65 games in which he played. He averaged 8.3 points, 8.2 assists and four rebounds a game.

Ball is heading into his second season. The Lakers drafted him second overall out of UCLA last year. He averaged 10.2 points, 7.2 assists and 6.9 rebounds a game as a rookie.

Ball played in 52 games last year, missing 30 because of a shoulder injury and a pair of injuries to his left knee. Part of the Lakers’ goal this summer was to sign a veteran point guard to add depth at the position. Last season, the Lakers struggled to fill it when Ball was out with injuries.


It takes a Great One to know a great one: Gretzky applauds LeBron James’ joining the Lakers

Wayne Gretzky is all smiles during his induction ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.
(Frank Gunn / Associated Press)

Wayne Gretzky, who was nicknamed “The Great One” for his exploits during his record-shattering hockey career, knows another great one when he sees one. And he expects LeBron James to be better than great for the Lakers.

“He’s pretty special. I don’t know if we’ve seen an athlete so unique as he is. He’s in a different world because he’s so special,” Gretzky said in a phone interview Monday.

It was suggested that the last otherworldly athlete to land in Los Angeles before James was Gretzky, who arrived here in a trade with Edmonton in August 1988 and changed the face of the NHL by popularizing hockey and planting the game’s roots in areas where it had never flourished before. Gretzky, ever modest, was having none of that. “I’m not in his league,” Gretzky said, “but it’s nice of you to say.”

Gretzky credited Magic Johnson, the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, for bringing James to Los Angeles. Johnson, he said, was among the first people to buy Kings season tickets when Gretzky joined the team in a trade that stunned the hockey world.

“Magic is probably the closest thing to Jerry Buss, and Jerry would do anything to win. Obviously Earvin is the exact same way,” Gretzky said, referring to the Lakers’ late longtime owner. “I think Earvin is so much like Dr. Buss, he would do anything to win. And he deserves a lot of accolades for getting LeBron to agree to come here.

“It’s probably so exciting for fans of basketball who love the Lakers and want them to succeed. This guy’s a monster. He’s a real special athlete. And when you have a guy like that, a lot of good things happen not only to the team, but around the organization. I think it’s wonderful for everyone.”

Gretzky said he had met James once, but doesn’t really know him.

“But to me, if he’s not the greatest athlete in the world right now, he’s obviously in the top three and it’s exciting for everybody in L.A.,” Gretzky said. “Everybody I know that follows basketball — which is almost everyone — is really excited. Good for him.”

I’ll have more from my conversation with Gretzky in a column that will be posted online later Monday and will appear in print on Tuesday.


Want a replica LeBron James Lakers jersey? That’ll be $75

Less than 24 hours after the announcement that LeBron James would sign with the Lakers, the Team L.A. store at Staples Center doesn’t have No. 23 jerseys in stock yet.

The story is different online.

The main image on the web portal for the Lakers team store includes three No. 23 James jerseys and a photo of James in a fourth jersey.

The site offers replica James jerseys in purple or gold for $75. There are four types of James T-shirts for $35 each, too.

At the same time, the NBA’s online store didn’t waste time in adjusting to James’ departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Most all of his replica jerseys and T-shirts from the team are on sale on the site, some up to 40% off.


Meet the greatest player to wear a Lakers jersey: LeBron James

One of the greatest Lakers of all-time chats with one of the greatest players of all-time during the 2017 NBA All-Star game.
(Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

When the first jump ball is tipped in his first official game as a Laker, LeBron James will cement his place in franchise history.

At that precise moment on that October evening, James will become the greatest player to ever wear a Lakers uniform.

Easy, Magic Johnson fans. We’re not saying he’ll be the greatest Laker ever. Not even close. At age 33, and with a contract he could walk away from in three years, he won’t play here long enough for that distinction.

Chill, Kobe Bryant fans. We’re not saying he’ll be the most celebrated Laker ever. No chance. There’s no way he’s winning five rings here and giving fans what Bryant gave them for 20 years. James can probably win one title, maybe, and only if he keeps winning the daily battles with Father Time.

Relax, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We’re also not saying he’ll be the most prolific Laker ever. Nobody will ever stand taller than The Captain. James probably won’t even set any meaningful Lakers records during his relatively short stay in town.

But, seriously, in terms of resume and versatility and overall ability to consistently dominate, James will be the greatest player to ever wear a Lakers uniform, because perhaps he might be the greatest player to ever wear any uniform.

That James is even listed at the top of the Lakers list of greats is an achievement, because that’s a pretty deep list.

If you add James to the above three Laker heroes, and throw in Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West and Karl Malone, more than half of arguably the top 15 players in league history have worn Lakers uniforms.

It’s a bejeweled court, soon to be occupied by a King.


Lakers renounce rights to Randle and agree to terms with Rondo

The Lakers renounced their rights to Julius Randle on Monday, clearing $12.5 million worth of salary cap space, according to sources who weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Randle will immediately become an unrestricted free agent.

Moments later, they agreed to a one-year deal worth $9 million to sign Rajon Rondo, a veteran point guard most recently with the Celtics, according to sources who weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Randle, a 23-year-old Dallas native spent, four seasons with the Lakers after being drafted seventh overall in 2014. Although the Lakers publicly said they wanted to keep Randle, they never engaged in negotiations with the power forward’s representatives or gave them any true indication of their interest in Randle.

Randle’s agent, Aaron Mintz, also represents Paul George, who committed to remain in Oklahoma City without even taking a meeting with the Lakers.

Rondo is a four-time All-Star who won a championship in 2008 when the Boston Celtics beat the Lakers.

The 32-year-old point guard comes to the Lakers a year after the team first expressed interest in him. At the time, the Lakers had some concerns about Rondo’s time in Chicago, which included a suspension by the team. But in the last year, which he spent with New Orleans, Rondo became an integral part of the Pelicans offense: an irritant to opponents, but a player embraced by this teammates.


LeBron James will bring an army of fans to Los Angeles, including Chargers rookie Derwin James

Derwin James, the first-round draft pick of the Chargers, visits Grand Central Market in downtown L.A.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Two days after the Los Angeles Chargers used their first-round pick on safety Derwin James, he stood in the team’s media room, watching the team’s second- and third-round picks, Uchenna Nwosu and Justin Jones, conduct their first interviews as NFL players.

While they talked about their dreams coming true, James was caught in the back of the room in a daydream of his own.

James is a basketball fan, he said. Loves the game and wowed Florida State fans with a between-the-legs, windmill slam while he was in college, signaling his knee was fully healthy.

So, while his future teammates talked football, he jab stepped. He bounced an imaginary ball between his legs, crossed over and stepped back.

He flicked the imaginary ball through an imaginary basket, scoring two points for his favorite team.

And that team?

“LeBron James.”

When the Lakers and LeBron James agreed to a four-year, $153.3-million contract Sunday, they didn’t just get the NBA’s best player, a workhorse, do-it-all athlete with unmatched skill, size, strength and speed.

They also acquired the army of fans who care more about the name on the back of the jersey than the one on the front.

If the Lakers’ fan base wasn’t already strong, it’s about to be invaded by a mass of people who have followed King James from Cleveland to Miami and back to Cleveland, with him pied-pipering them through the Eastern Conference.

It’s a magnetism made for Los Angeles, a place where Hollywood’s biggest movie stars try to get people to follow them from action to drama, from raunchy comedy to family film. And just a few people have it.

Had LeBron told the Orlando Magic he wanted to bring them to glory, his fans would’ve followed him there. Had he told the Memphis Grizzlies he wanted to grit and grind, they would’ve come. Even if he decided to team up with another Ball, LaVar, and his JBA, people like Derwin James would be pulling for the “Dallas Ballers” or something like that.

He’s earned these fans with greatness, and now they’ll be sharing Staples Center with another group of fans whose loyalty has also been won by greatness, the combining forces a result of a free-agency signing unlike any other in NBA history.

A player this great jumping ship to an organization this storied? It’s never happened before.

Until now.

And it’s giving Lakers fans, and LeBron James fans, lots to cheer about.


Cleveland’s UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic offers his thoughts on LeBron James’ departure

Stipe Miocic
(David Dermer / Associated Press)

After LeBron James, Cleveland’s most prominent athlete is UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, who ironically was summoned to Los Angeles on Monday for a media lunch to discuss his Saturday UFC 226 main-event title defense against light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.

Miocic, an avid Cleveland Cavaliers fan and Ohio sports follower, says he’s in line with most from the area who lament losing James to the Lakers on Sunday, but appreciate the NBA title he brought the city two years ago.

“I’m OK. Best of luck to him, whatever’s best for him and his family,” Miocic said. “He did what he said he was going to, brought a title back to Cleveland.”

Miocic’s profile rises with each victory as he seeks to extend his own record run of heavyweight title defenses against Cormier at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena and he’s been called into advertising campaigns like the UFC’s beer sponsor, Modelo.

Some of that lucrative side work — as James knows — is more easily available in Los Angeles.

But Miocic said he’d never leave his home outside Cleveland.

Even for the extra money?

“No … well, money’s nice, but I’d still live in Cleveland and just have a house somewhere else,” Miocic said. “Cleveland would be home base, but I would never leave … it has my back.”

The Cavaliers, after four consecutive title-game appearances, plummeted in Las Vegas to 500-1 odds to win next year’s NBA title as James exited.

“We’ll be all right,” Miocic said. “The city’s alive now and it’s about time. For a little while, all we had good [downtown] was food. Now we have food, good bars, good places to go to and I think it’s going to stay that way for a long time now.

“The Browns are making moves, the Indians are playing well … it’s not only about the Cavs anymore.”


How much salary cap space do the Lakers have left after signing LeBron James? It’s complicated

LeBron James's four-year deal gives him the option to opt out after three seasons.
(Jason Miller / Getty Images)

In the aftermath of LeBron James agreeing to a franchise-changing four-year, $154-million contract with the Lakers on Sunday, plenty of salary cap flexibility remains for the team to continue building around the megastar.

“The Lakers left themselves with options,” said Larry Coon, a computer scientist at UC Irvine who is one of the leading experts on the NBA salary cap.

In the short term, the Lakers are up against the $101-million cap for the 2018-19 season after adding James and agreeing to one-year contracts for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($12 million), JaVale McGee ($2.4 million) and Lance Stephenson ($4.4 million). They can sign players to minimum contracts — barring further salary cap maneuvering — which would take them out of play for the big names remaining on the free agent market.

This is where the seemingly arcane provisions of the cap, at least to causal fans, come into play.

Though Julius Randle is a restricted free agent without a contract, the forward counts for $12.5 million against the cap. But the Lakers can go over the salary cap to sign him or do so to match an offer from another team.

If the Lakers wanted to target another big-name player this off-season, Coon said, they could open $18.5 million of cap space by renouncing the rights to Randle and waiving Luol Deng. They would also need to “stretch” Deng -- a provision allowing teams to spread out the salary cap impact from a bad contract like the four-year, $72-million deal Deng signed in 2016.

Coon expects the Lakers to give Randle a one-year contract to maintain flexibility for next year’s free agent class -- giving the team as much as $37.5 million to spend on a big-name sidekick for James.

At least from the salary cap standpoint, Coon sees a much-rumored trade for San Antonio Spurs standout Kawhi Leonard as unlikely. The Lakers would have to come close to matching Leonard’s $20-million salary with the pieces sent to the Spurs, meaning including talented youngsters Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram plus more pieces or including Deng’s bloated contract.

“How often does a team send out the best player in a deal and take back the worst contract? “ Coon said.

He described other trade scenarios for Leonard, like working out a sign-and-trade deal including Randle, as “iffy” because of the salary cap situation.

That doesn’t mean Leonard wouldn’t end up in L.A.: he’s a free agent after the coming season.

NOTE: The Lakers have waived their rights to Julius Randle, who is now a free agent. The move clears up $12.5 million of salary cap space.


At Staples Center, fans of Lakers, LeBron James celebrate his signing

Abdel Assy, a 36-year-old from Canada, takes a selfie in front of the Magic Johnson statue at Staples Center on Monday.
Abdel Assy, a 36-year-old from Canada, takes a selfie in front of the Magic Johnson statue at Staples Center on Monday.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Chris Chan and Abdel Assy might as well inhabit different planets. Chan hails from Melbourne, Australia. Assy is a Montreal native who lives in Dubai.

Within minutes of each other Monday, they visited the Team LA store at Staples Center with the same purpose:

To buy a LeBron James Lakers jersey.

But they had opposite reasons for wanting one.

Chan is a James fan. Assy is a Lakers fan. They’re on the same team now — a reality that came true for legions of LeBron and Lakers loyalists the moment the two sides agreed to join forces Sunday, bringing together two brands with international appeal.

“I have a Miami jersey and a Miami hat,” said Chan, 49, who like Assy was in Los Angeles for a vacation. “I have a Cavs jersey and a Cavs hat.”

Chan will have to wait on the Lakers jersey — they were only available online as of Monday afternoon. But he did purchase a Lakers hat, affirming his fandom, which was nearly a day old.

Assy, 36, couldn’t even recall how he became a Lakers fan growing up in Montreal. It just sort of happened. He loved Magic Johnson, and so it was natural for him to come downtown Monday and pose for photos and videos in front of the Magic statue, the day after Johnson reeled in the “biggest fish,” as Assy put it.

As with many basketball fans, Assy’s feelings for James have changed with time.

“He was pretty annoying when he was in Miami,” Assy said. “He was pretty hated. When he went back to Cleveland, now I think more and more people like him. They kind of hate Golden State and cheer with LeBron.”

Assy was scouting out a spot for the eventual James statue here.

“He was born to be a Laker,” Assy said.


Will LeBron James shift NBA’s balance of power? Time will tell

LeBron James has appeared in eight consecutive NBA Finals.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The back-to-back NBA champion Golden State Warriors still are the rulers of the league until proven otherwise.

But the NBA experienced a seismic shift Sunday when LeBron James decided to join the Lakers in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers in tatters and the Eastern Conference up for grabs.

Does James, who agreed to a four-year, $154-million deal, make the Lakers title contenders?

There’s plenty of competition. The Houston Rockets have James Harden and a re-signed Chris Paul. The Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder will be in the championship conversation in the West, too.

James reigned in the Eastern Conference the last eight seasons, taking the Miami Heat and Cavaliers each to four consecutive NBA Finals.

Now that he has bolted, that perhaps means it will be an easier pathway for the talented Boston Celtics and rising Philadelphia 76ers to get out of the East.

“I think there are a bunch of outstanding teams in the Western Conference. Obviously the champs will be favored,” said Mark Jackson, the venerable NBA analyst for ESPN and ABC. “But we saw last year it wasn’t an easy road for them and the West has only gotten better since then.

“With LeBron gone, it absolutely opens the door in the East. I mean, the door was shut for eight years. So it opens the door. Everybody sounds like they are ready to take the jump. The question is who is going to take the jump. It’ll be real interesting. I think with a healthy Kyrie Irving, I think the Celtics are the favorite. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to translate. I think it’s wide open in the East.”


Ice Cube on LeBron James’ signing: ‘It was a good day’

Ice Cube has made his feelings known about LeBron James decision to sign with the Lakers. The South L.A.-born rapper tweeted a 2017 video of himself, James and James Corden performing Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day” on “Carpool Karaoke.”


Kings happy to welcome King James to the Lakers and Los Angeles

LeBron James
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

LeBron James on skates?

The Kings, who share Staples Center with the Lakers, Clippers and the WNBA‘s Sparks, are happy to welcome the Lakers’ newest acquisition to Los Angeles and plan to invite him to a hockey game. They also hope to involve him in some hockey-related activities to take advantage of the buzz surrounding the signing of “King” James.

“We’ll try and do a couple of funny videos with him,” said Luc Robitaille, the Kings’ president and a Hall of Fame player.

Robitaille called James’ signing “unbelievable,” and added that he’s looking forward to being like any other fan and watching James play next season. Robitaille said he believes the impact of James’ arrival will be significant for the Lakers but won’t be as momentous as the impact superstar Wayne Gretzky had in popularizing hockey in Los Angeles and beyond after Gretzky was traded to the Kings from Edmonton in 1988. Gretzky had to promote the game in a city that didn’t have a long or happy professional hockey history, and he was generous and successful with his time and efforts. By contrast, James doesn’t have to sell basketball or the Lakers here.

“The Lakers are always the Lakers,” Robitaille said. “I think the fact that maybe they haven’t had a winning franchise the last four or five years, from that standpoint, you know right away now you’re going to at least compete.

“It’s different because when Gretz came it literally changed the game of hockey. This is kind of rebooting the Lakers. We’ve always known the Lakers are all about winning and they just showed it one more time that they’re doing it.”

Gretzky’s arrival inspired countless kids to play roller hockey and later take to the ice, an impact that was felt around the NHL. “They built a whole bunch of rinks and next thing you know, you have two teams in Florida, one in Phoenix, San Jose, Anaheim. That was because of Wayne,” Robitaille said. “It probably would have happened but never that quickly.”

Robitaille also said the arrival of James and the likely revival of the Lakers won’t adversely affect the Kings.

“We really feel like what we do, our fans believe in it. Our fans know now that we’re doing whatever it takes to win,” he said. “It’s not going to hurt us at all. It’s funny, even with adding two football teams in this city, we haven’t seen that it’s hurt us. We know us. It’s about us, what we do and our product and how our players play. We have our crowd and we know if we compete we’re going to be OK.”


Lakers expected to speak with Julius Randle’s representatives Monday

Julius Randle was the only Laker to play in all 82 games last season.
(Brandon Dill / Associated Press)

With their top free agent target secured, the Lakers are expected to have a conversation with Julius Randle’s representatives Monday. The nature of that conversation is unclear.

Randle has not yet received a contract offer from the Lakers, who control his rights as a restricted free agent.

He counts for $12.5 million against the salary cap, but because he has played under the same contract for longer than three years, the Lakers have his Bird rights and can exceed the salary cap to sign him. If Randle receives an offer from another team and signs their offer sheet, the Lakers also have the right to match it.

The Lakers drafted Randle seventh overall in 2014. He broke his leg in the first game of his rookie year and missed the rest of the season. Randle started in 60 of the 81 games he played the next season, and in Luke Walton’s first year as the Lakers’ head coach, Randle started in 73 of 74 games he played.

Last season, Randle began the year coming off the bench. He struggled with the demotion but ultimately become one of the Lakers’ most reliable and versatile players. He eventually regained his role as a starter and started 49 games as the Lakers’ power forward.

Randle was the only Laker to play all 82 games last season.


Lakers were already favorites of bettors in Las Vegas before LeBron James came to town

The Lakers don’t belong strictly to Los Angeles. They’re also the favorite team of bettors in Las Vegas.

So Sunday’s announcement that LeBron James is joining the Lakers caused a significant shift by oddsmakers who are taking into account not only the dramatic roster upgrade, but the expected onslaught of those who want to gamble on the team just because of their allegiance.

News that James will join the Lakers saw sports books like the influential Westgate SuperBook slash the team’s future odds of winning the NBA title from an opening 20-1 during June’s NBA Finals to 7-2 — making the Lakers tied with the Boston Celtics as the second choice behind the defending-champion Golden State Warriors.

“The odds, most of the time, don’t reflect our power rankings. It’s about betting patterns. And we know we’re going to take a boatload of money on the Lakers from now on until the end of season,” said Westgate SuperBook director Jay Kornegay.

“After being nowhere near the playoffs this past season, they may be no better than the seventh- or eighth-best pick … but we know they’re probably still going to make more moves. Still there’s the monster ahead of them in their own division that isn’t going anywhere.”

Golden State is the 10-11 favorite to repeat as NBA champions. And the Houston Rockets, who took the Warriors to Game 7 in the Western Conference finals, are listed at 7-1.

Waiting on James was a turbulent ride for the bookmakers.

“The LeBron factor was built in. It’s been a wild couple of weeks with all kinds of rumors, including what schools LeBron has enrolled his kids,” said Kornegay, who cut the Lakers from 12-1 to 13-2 by Friday, when he took future-book NBA betting off the board after James declared he would not exercise his option to rejoin the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Despite appearing in four consecutive NBA Finals, the Cavaliers are now massive 500-1 underdogs.


Lakers to add JaVale McGee and Lance Stephenson to mix, will bring back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Lance Stephenson
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

After securing LeBron James on a four-year deal worth $154 million, the Lakers agreed Sunday to one-year deals with three veterans.

They will pay Kentavious Caldwell-Pope $12 million, Lance Stephenson $4.4 million and JaVale McGee $2.4 million, according to people not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. None of those deals can become official until Friday.

Two contracts did become official. The Lakers signed first-round draft pick Moe Wagner, which means he can’t be traded for at least 30 days. They also signed Malik Newman, a rookie from Kansas, to a two-way deal.

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Late Saturday night meeting with Magic Johnson sealed LeBron James’ decision to accept Lakers offer

LeBron James
(Gregory Shamus / Associated Press)

Under cover of darkness and all by himself, Magic Johnson arrived at LeBron James’ Brentwood house at 9:01 p.m. on Saturday.

He knew — he just knew — that if he could look James in the eye and talk to him, they’d connect. They had too much in common for that not to happen.

It was Johnson’s turn to save his beloved Lakers franchise.

They talked about basketball and what the Lakers’ future could be, according to sources not authorized to speak publicly. James was already interested in the Lakers. He didn’t mind that the Lakers weren’t a ready-made championship team; he could help build that. They bonded as men who’d grown up in the Midwest, men who saw basketball as a doorway to the business world and a way to effect social change.

For more than two hours they shared their experiences, members of one of the tiniest and most elite fraternities.

And now the Lakers have a superstar again.

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LeBron James gives Lakers the star power they have been lacking

LeBron James
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

LeBron is a Laker.

Four words that were once whispers of dreams can now be shouted across Los Angeles with a force that will rattle our sports landscape down to its historic core.

The King is coming.

LeBron James, the greatest active NBA player and possibly the greatest player ever, has agreed to join the Lakers in not only their most celebrated acquisition ever, but perhaps their most perfect.

The biggest star in the sports world will play for its most star-driven franchise. The leading actor in 15 years of the highest basketball drama is coming to the birthplace of Showtime.

He’s a four-time MVP who will be playing in front of fans who helped popularize the chant of “M-V-P.” He’s a 14-time All-Star who will be playing in a Staples Center where all-stars are bronzed. Sixteen championship banners, nine retired numbers of Hall of Famers, The Logo and The Captain and Magic and Shaq and Kobe and now … King James.

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LeBron James gets a king-sized welcome to Lakers on social media

LeBron James agreed to a four-year deal worth $154 million with the Lakers on Sunday, and the world of social media went into a frenzy when the announcement was made.

Former and current Lakers welcomed James with open arms.

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NBA legends understand the stars are about to align with LeBron James now part of the Lakers

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant
LeBron James, Kobe Bryant
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Several former Lakers stars, including a few Hall of Famers, were excited to see LeBron James agree to join the team on Sunday night.

They understand James’ otherworldly talent can lift a franchise that hasn’t been in the playoffs for five consecutive years and hasn’t won an NBA championship since 2010.

James’ agency, Klutch Sports Group, said its client had agreed to a four-year, $154-million deal.

James Worthy, a Hall of Famer who won three championships with the Lakers, knows having James is exactly what the young team needed to grow.

“I think LeBron is still the King despite what Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors have done,” said Worthy, an analyst for Spectrum SportsNet. “I think he’s coming here with all his knowledge and experience. He seems to be a really good teammate, willing to accept his role as well as being patient and trying to improve players, at least from what I see.

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