James favored to stay with Lakers as potential suitors emerge

REUTERS – LeBron James is going to take some time away from the court to decide where – and even if – he will play his 22nd NBA season.
The Lakers were back in the news with Friday’s firing of coach Darvin Ham after two seasons. Who general manager Rob Pelinka tabs to replace Ham could also weigh heavily on James’ decision.
James could choose to become a free agent, or he could decide to pick up his $51.4 million player option for the final year of his current contract. At 39, he could even opt to retire.
The Lakers are the -500 favorite at DraftKings to be the team James begins the 2024-25 season with, but the sportsbook is also offering odds on nine other potential NBA destinations in Cleveland Cavaliers (+1200), Golden State Warriors (+2000), New York Knicks (+2500), Oklahoma City Thunder (+4000), Phoenix Suns (+4000), San Antonio Spurs (+4500), Chicago Bulls (+10000), and Portland Trail Blazers (+20000).
A return to the purple and gold remains the heavy favorite, and the public has backed that likelihood with 32 percent of the money wagered at the book.
However, the second-most popular choice has been a move to Oklahoma City to pair with star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. At +4000 longshot odds, the Thunder have attracted 26 percent of the money. Tied for third is Golden State and Philadelphia, with both backed by 13 percent.
Despite having the shortest odds among teams outside of the Lakers, Cleveland has been backed by only four percent of the money for James to spend a third stint with the Cavaliers.
James declined to address his future following the Lakers’ first-round playoff exit, offering only that, “I haven’t given it much thought,” and his priority was returning home to spend time with his family.
James just completed his 21st NBA season, which included his 20th consecutive All-Star Game selection. He is a four-time NBA champion, a four-time NBA Finals MVP and a four-time regular-season MVP.
Asked about taking any confidence moving forward from the Lakers pushing the defending champion Denver Nuggets in the series that went five games, James said, “No, ‘cause we lost. ... I’m not a ‘participation’ guy. We lost and you move on and see how you can get better.
“Our season has been derailed all season with ... injuries and guys in and out. I talked about it all year. ... It’s hard to say who we are, what we can be ‘cause we have yet to be whole. I think we were only probably whole one or two times this year. I know one of them was during the in-season tournament, we got whole and we showed what we (are) capable of doing.
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