The reason the Lakers’ LeBron James attended Cavs’ Game 4 loss to Celtics

Tony Nguyen | Los Angeles Lakers
May 14, 2024

A lot of eyes — even more than usual — are on LeBron James right now. The four-time NBA Champion can opt out of the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers and become a free agent this offseason, and with the prospect of his son Bronny James being drafted next month as well, there are plenty of theories as to where LeBron will be next season. And it could be the Cleveland Cavaliers, if James’ presence at Game 4 between the Cavs and Boston Celtics was any indication.

With his Lakers having already been eliminated from the NBA Playoffs by the defending champion Denver Nuggets, James decided to take in an NBA game as a spectator last night. By sitting courtside for the Cavaliers’ 109-102 home loss to the Celtics, James sent NBA Twitter, media, and according to league insider Brian Windhorst, quite a few general managers into a tizzy.

“The first thing that came into my mind when this happened was 10 years ago, when LeBron came back to Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ jersey retirement while he was a member of the Miami Heat,” Windhorst said. “[He] took a night off while in Chicago, flew over for it, and he signed with the Cavs a few months later,” Windhorst said. “Now, let me just say this, I have been told, the reason why LeBron was in Cleveland was because he and (his wife) Savannah were there for Mother’s Day…”

Windhorst said that while Rich Paul, James’ agent, reportedly informed the Lakers that LeBron would be attending the game so as not to catch them by surprise, Windhorst said he thinks the “maneuver” centers on pressuring the Lakers into offseason deals, as well as Bronny’s draft stock.

“On draft night, [the Lakers] can trade three first-round picks. At the trade deadline, as everybody knows, they did nothing and LeBron wasn’t happy about it. So this little maneuver put a little bit of doubt, I think, mostly a bit of a thing for the Lakers. Just to remind the Lakers, ‘By the way, just so you know, I’m still out here.’

“And then you have the Bronny factor. Now, Rich Paul has come out and said on the record that LeBron and Bronny do not have to be tied together… Having said that, we see Bronny trending more towards, I think, getting drafted. There’s various teams that have draft picks in the first round and the second round, including the Cavs, including the Lakers, and I do think that’s a situation worth watching. I don’t think anybody should overreact to this, but certainly, LeBron knew he was going to create a stir, and it did on my phone and elsewhere in the league it did last night.”

Could LeBron leave the Lakers and return to the Cavaliers?

Savannah James, Los Angeles Lakers player LeBron James, and Rich Paul

The Cleveland Cavaliers would be one of the most logical destinations for LeBron James if he chooses to leave the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason. However, it would seem unlikely James will make a second return to Cleveland.

While it would make sense for the Cavs to bring in James to replace someone like Caris LeVert, any trade would likely have to also include Donovan Mitchell, who would probably be someone LeBron would want to play with. James is set to make $51.4 million if he opts into the final year of his contract with the Lakers, and if he opts out, he very realistically could sign another lucrative two-year deal.

While another return to the Cavs is indeed possible for James, the most likely scenario this offseason is that LeBron re-signs with the Lakers. Where Bronny ends up is anyone’s guess, though, as his NBA Draft Combine performance has seemingly reinvigorated some of the interest that teams had before a disappointing freshman season at USC.