LeBron James is finally going to New York! Knicks for clicks!?
We might be on to something here, folks, so bear with me for a minute because this is so great a story that even the Klutch Honcho found things so agitated that he had to come out to calm the waters yesterday.
This is a very long story, so let’s go one chapter at a time until reaching its climax. Believe me, you’re going to enjoy this one.
CAA vs Klutch Sports Beef
Let’s start at the beginning, which brings us all the way back to... the New York Knicks hiring Leon Rose as their new president in 2020. Perhaps it’s also worth mentioning that Rose, before joining the Knicks organization, worked at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) along with a certain individual named Rich Paul.
Turns out both gentlemen ended up following similarly diverging paths from their CAA days, with the two of them chasing greater goals for their careers—Rose becoming president of the NYK in 2020 and Paul starting his own agency in 2012, Klutch Sports Group, and representing none other than LeBron James among many other superstars across the NBA and beyond from that point on.
After a lot of things happened in the last decade and change, something was clear last winter when reports emerged about an ongoing beef between CAA and Klutch getting confirmed by many different sources and reporters touching on the situation. From New York Post Stefan Bondy saying Klutch “has made it clear it’d prefer not to do business with the Knicks front office,” to former Post journalist Marc Berman revealing Paul “told confidants he prefers not to have a client play for the Knicks,” to Ian Begley of SNY adding that Paul was “open to an in-person meeting with the Knicks to work out their differences,” last December.
Well, according to Bondy everything is now cool between CAA (and the Knicks, by extension) and Klutch (codename Rich Paul), following a meeting between both parties in which “things were hashed out,” per a source speaking to the New York Post.
With the Knicks-Klutch impasse as the backdrop - which we've reported on previously -- the team and Rich Paul met today and "things were hashed out," a source told The Post. Focus now moving forward with better relationship.— Stefan Bondy (@SbondyNBA) February 2, 2024
As reported in the column written by Bondy, Paul and Rose met on Friday and discussed their beef during a sit-down both sides left with “the hope to move forward with a business relationship.”
Cryptic LeBron James hits the scene
This could mean a lot of things, or this could simply mean nothing. But this report emerged on a very tumultuous day following a recent development taking place in Los Angeles and involving Klutch’s main client: LeBron James is waiting (?) for something.
⌛️— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 31, 2024
James’ tweet was published after the Lakers fell behind a .500 winning percentage last week after a loss against the lowly Atlanta Hawks. Entering Saturday’s game against the Knicks at MSG, the Lakers have an even 25-25 record and sit in the no. 9 seed in the Western Conference, just one game above the play-in cutoff.
Known for his pre-trade-deadline anxiety issues and machinations, James has once more and for the nth time in his career been at the center of the spotlight of late when it comes to rumors about Lakers potential trade targets, forcing LA’s front office to make moves, and everything of the like.
However, there has been a plot twist to that tired narrative of late: what if the player that Los Angeles ends up trading is the very own LeBron James?
Multiple analysts float Lakers trading LeBron away
Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer first floated the idea one day before the Lakers dropped their game against Atlanta and LBJ posted that cryptic tweet.
“If a breakup is inevitable (LeBron will be a free agent next summer with a Player Option for the 2024/25 season in his contract), I can’t help but wonder whether the best time for both LeBron and the Lakers to make a change is now, ahead of the deadline: James could join a contender, and Los Angeles could get something in return. Would the Heat, Knicks, or Sixers make an all-in move? All of them could offer a better chance at the Finals than the Lakers.
Yesterday, on ESPN’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith made his case for a LeBron trade away from the Los Angeles Lakers before the Feb. 8 deadline.
Stephen A. Smith is all-in on recruiting LeBron James to the Knicks. pic.twitter.com/omO2hfyZgk— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) February 2, 2024
Smith only discussed one possibility for James, though: the New York Knicks.
“I’m going to make a proposal to LeBron James to virtually guarantee him a trip to the NBA Finals if not a championship. Get traded to the New York Knicks,” Smith started.
“If LeBron James wants to put himself in a position to win a championship, get traded to the New York Knicks. You see that defense, you see Tom Thibodeau coaching this defense, you see that brother Jalen Brunson and what he does?
“The New York Knicks have about 11 picks over the next five or six years. If you are the Lakers, you need picks. You need picks and personnel. And who is the team that can give you that? It’s the New York Knicks.”
Hearing from @nba peeps @KingJames is the top of the @Lakers list to trade the 39 year old. Pelinka is looking for the right team to dance with and is close to a suitor Lbj and AD both out tonight. @KTLA @KTLA5SPORTS #nba #Lakers— David pingalore (@DavidPingalore) February 1, 2024
Before Smith’s take aired on Friday, David Pingalore of KTLA Sports shared the following message on X (formerly known as Twitter): “Hearing from NBA peeps LeBron James is the top of the Lakers list to trade. Pelinka is looking for the right team to dance with and is close to a suitor.”
Klutch CEO Rich Paul gets mad, claims “LeBron won’t be traded”
Let’s say things were getting a little bit out of hand as Friday progressed, so much so that Rich Paul, CEO of Klutch, decided to take matters into his own hands, called Brian Windhorst of ESPN personally, and made it very clear that “LeBron James will remain with the Los Angeles Lakers.”
Windhorst quotes Paul in his story saying “LeBron won’t be traded, and we aren’t asking to be,” amid all of the rumors, whispers, and speculation that had started to grow big enough to make Paul uncomfortable less than a week from the deadline.
Agent Rich Paul says LeBron James will not be traded— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) February 2, 2024
Now, that statement might have put an end to all of the LBJ trade talk... or not. At the end of the day, the Los Angeles Lakers have LeBron in their payroll and James is under contract for the remainder of the season and the following one—only if he chooses so.
That, combined with the fact that LeBron does not have any way to block a trade away from Los Angeles if the Lakers want to pull the trigger (he doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his contract), nothing but takes all value off Paul’s statement, devaluing at belittling it to a mere nonsensical rant trying to instill fear in Figueroa Street, LA.
See, this type of rumor—one based around the figure of LeBron getting moved—has been there since James was a young phenom and a member of the Cavaliers before we flipped the calendar page to the last decade as he was carrying Cleveland to mid-aughts Finals all by himself.
New York Knicks enter the LeBron James Trade conversation
They came back after he won chips in Miami, let alone after his triumphal Ohian homecoming and also after a couple of ugly moments spent in Hollywood. Now, they’re back. And now, the Knicks are once more linked to the GOAT, whether we like it or not.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) February 3, 2024
What could it take for the Knicks to please Los Angeles’ demands in a potential trade for James? What might be the Lakers after in such a scenario? Turns out, perhaps not that much.
Keep in mind, LeBron turned 39 last December and is playing in what virtually is the last year under contract barring the execution of a player option baked into his deal before June 29, a couple of days after the 2024 NBA Draft that should, if all goes according to plan, feature Bronny James among those eligible to join an NBA franchise ahead of next season.
The Lakers are facing a future in which they lose the greatest player of all time (don’t underestimate LBJ’s production even in his 21st year as a pro, folks) for nothing next July if he decides to move away and join Bronny wherever his son lands. The Lakers, again, are a mediocre 25-25 team with little to no aspirations of pulling off a postseason run ending in a championship next June. They don’t have enough sauce in their team. They are more than a move—or four—away from building a team strong enough around LBJ and AD to pull off the feat.
The Knicks, on the other hand, would probably just have to send a few first-round picks the other way while matching salaries to land LeBron James before the Feb. 8 deadline. Evan Fournier plus Julius Randle, along with those picks, would do the trick. Fournier isn’t playing now or ever. Randle is out for a few weeks/months and by the time he returns (assuming he does at all) it might be too late.
Potential trade packages, LA Lakers demands get discussed
Nick Wright and Chris Broussard of First Things First discussed this saga on Feb. 1, with the former saying “I don’t think the team acquiring him has to give up as much as people think.“
The proposed trade package would include Randle, Fournier, and two first-round picks; one in 2024 (Mavericks, top-10 protected) and the other in 2025 (Bucks, top-four protected).
There you have it, P&Ters. Boiling the trade down to its simplest terms, the Knicks would essentially be flipping 29-year-old Randle for 39-year-old LeBron in what would amount to opening a one/two-season super-contending window while keeping all other key pieces currently in the roster around.
That is, of course, assuming the Lakers don’t try to include other players (Quentin Grimes) or picks in the trade, and that James decides to pick up his player option for next season staying in New York for another run at the chip in 2025—with or without Bronny playing games in orange and blue threads.
3 Potential Trades for LeBron James, according to @getnickwright:— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) January 31, 2024
• Knicks get LeBron, Lakers get Randle, Fournier, 2024 1st, 2025 1st
• 76ers get LeBron, Lakers get Harris, Korkmaz, 2028 1st
• Heat get LeBron, Lakers get Herro, Robinson
Who says no? pic.twitter.com/5YT29EJOTZ
To trade, or not to trade for LeBron James?
Would the trade make sense? Randle is banged up and the dislocated shoulder injury he suffered last weekend should eventually, at some point, require surgery and a few months on the sidelines without ruling out further damage impacting the area in the future and recurrent issues forcing Randle to miss more games as he gets older.
Would be wise to trade Randle (a three-time All-Star) and his future with the organization in exchange for one, maybe two, best-case-scenario three years of LeBron James as the Knicks are currently constructed?
What is the most you’d surrender (Randle and Fournier are a must to make salaries match) in such a scenario if you were running the Knicks front office? Would you even entertain the idea?
Will the Knicks, led by former CAA and LBJ agent Leon Rose go for it, bringing back the old working ways of the New York Knicks franchise?
Will LeBron finally fulfill his long-chased dream of playing nightly in the Garden?
Too many questions, less than a week to get a definitive answer.