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LeBron James will go only where winning ‘matters most’ in free agency

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Maverick Carter downplayed Los Angeles as a destination for James next season.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Every year in free agency, we discuss Los Angeles and New York as the most likely free agent destinations for big name players. But Maverick Carter says that might not be the case for LeBron James this offseason.

Carter, a business associate and close friend of James, said the Hall of Fame forward will only play where he can win. At this point in his career, winning “matters most” to James, Carter said in an interview on the Rich Eisen Show.

“These days, it doesn’t matter anymore. The Lakers and the Knicks have been bad — the Knicks for a very long time, the Lakers since Kobe aged out of being one of the best players in the league,” Carter said. “You can be known or be a star from anywhere — anywhere in the world ... When you win as an athlete, that matters the most.”

As a business associate and friend of James, Carter certainly has a window into what he’s thinking. So it’s interesting that he’s downplaying the Lakers as a potential team James could go to.

This doesn’t bode well for the Lakers

The Lakers have been blatantly obvious about their plan to lure two big name free agents into their grasp next season, and James is one of the few who fits that criteria. They’ll certainly still be on the prowl for James and whomever else, but what Carter says here certainly isn’t a positive for them.

James has won at every stop in every season throughout his Hall of Fame career. As a 33-year-old who will be pushing 34 next season, that isn’t going to change. The Lakers are currently in a rebuilding process that could be kick-started if a major player does decide to lace up in Los Angeles. But that still won’t change the fact that their roster is filled with inexperienced players, and most of those players probably won’t be retained if the Lakers do get the two stars they’re dreaming of.

The Lakers don’t have a track record in recent years of winning, and that isn’t great. James can easily go in and turn things around in a jiffy, but at 34 years old who’s to say that he’ll want to do that again? This isn’t a personal mission for him like saving the Cavaliers was — this is strictly business.

Still, it’s too early to rule it out

Carter certainly tipped James’ hand a bit here, but he didn’t reveal everything to us. Winning certainly does matter to James, but at every destination he’s been he’s played for a roster that was built specifically around him and to his liking. If the Lakers were truly in the running for his services, they’d be able to make things happen pretty easily as one of the few teams that will have significant cap space next season.

Plus, James already lives in Los Angeles during the offseason. Carter said he and James have 10 shows in production in Los Angeles, and earlier this summer James may have been looking for a school for his son to attend next season in Los Angeles. If you’re looking to read the tea leaves, it’s all right there for you.

Things aren’t going so well in Cleveland right now. That probably won’t persist, but if it does? LA doesn’t seem like a terrible option.