September 24, 2023

LeBron James spends more time speaking on camera than perhaps any other athlete in the world, and from time to time, he’s been known to use those opportunities to drop hints towards his front office about things he might like them to do. As the Los Angeles Lakers have floundered to a 3-10 start, those hints have grown less subtle. 

The Lakers have spent the past several months hunting for a Russell Westbrook trade, but their inability to find one stems from their hesitance to include both of their available first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 in a deal. Instead, the Lakers have emphasized preserving cap space for the 2023 offseason. Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes recently reported that James “does not want to waste a season of his high-level playing days in hopes of incoming reinforcements for the 2023-24 campaign.” While James didn’t say as much directly while hosting an alternate broadcast of Thursday’s game between the Green Bay Packers and Tennessee Titans, he did chime in on a similarly aging yet legendary player in the same position. Unsurprisingly, he urged the Packers to go all in on winning with Rodgers.

“When you’ve got a transcendent, franchise player like Aaron Rodgers. A quarterback, obviously we know that the quarterback position in the NFL, besides if have like a monster defensive end or d-tackle like obviously Aaron Donald. That’s the most important position in the NFL. Why wouldn’t you surround that, when you’ve got the picks, to maximize what he can do?” James opined. Paul Rivera, who was on the broadcast with James, asked “Are we still talking football or are you talking basketball?” While James did say football, he jokingly added that it “definitely translates.”

The situations facing Rodgers and James are not identical. The Lakers are hesitant to give away picks. The Packers actively traded their second-best player last offseason to acquire more of them when they dealt Davante Adams to the Raiders and never replaced him on the depth chart. Rodgers has reportedly been frustrated with the team’s refusal to use a first-round pick on a wide receiver in recent years. One of those picks was used on Jordan Love, another quarterback. 

In theory, the Packers could use some of their draft capital to trade for a replacement for Adams. Such trades were relatively common last offseason, when Adams, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown and Marquise Brown were all dealt for first-rounders. However, in NFL history as a whole, teams rarely want to give away their best receivers. Even if they did, the Packers are paying Rodgers so much that fitting a top receiver into their salary cap without gutting the rest of the roster would be difficult. The Adams trade was about reallocating immediate resources as much as it was about stockpiling picks.

That isn’t the case for the Lakers. Those picks are purely future assets. James is concerned with the here and now and has made his feelings about the picks clear. When the Los Angeles Rams won the Super Bowl a year ago, their general manager, Les Snead, wore a shirt at the parade that read “f*** them picks.” James praised him on Twitter saying “LEGEND! My type of guy!!” The Packers may genuinely be attempting to give Rodgers the best possible chance of winning this season. So long as the Lakers hold those picks, that isn’t true for James.

Both James and Rodgers are nearing the ends of their historic careers. Both badly want to add more championships to their resume before that time comes. If James feels so strongly about how the Packers are building around Rodgers, it’s hard to believe he doesn’t feel similarly about the Lakers.

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