Sources: Warriors made bid for LeBron James at trade deadline

ByAdrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne ESPN logo
Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Over a clandestine 24-hour window prior to the trade deadline Thursday that included owner-to-owner conversations, the Golden State Warriors made an unsuccessful bid to convince the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James to consider a trade to pair him with longtime rival Stephen Curry, sources told ESPN.

The Warriors were eager to present a package deal to L.A., but neither the Lakers nor James were willing to explore a potential blockbuster. Even at 39 years old, James is still playing at an All-NBA level that stirred the Warriors' imagination about his ability to extend the window of the franchise's fading dynasty.

Armed with the encouragement of Warriors star Draymond Green, Golden State owner Joe Lacob reached out to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss to inquire whether James' apparent public frustration could be interpreted as an opening to discuss a trade, sources said.

Buss told Lacob the Lakers had no desire to trade James, but that he would need to seek the answer on James' state of mind from his agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, sources said. As an owner, Buss has operated with the mindset that she wants her star players content with the franchise, and that instructed her thinking on referring Warriors leadership to James' representation, sources said.

If the Lakers ever wanted a temperature check on James' commitment, here was his chance. In the end, the answer was returned resoundingly on the eve of the trade deadline: Paul told Lacob and Warriors GM Mike Dunleavy Jr., that James had no interest in a trade and wanted to remain a Laker, sources said. When Dunleavy reached out to Lakers GM Rob Pelinka in those pretrade deadline hours, Dunleavy had been told the same: The Lakers wanted to keep James, sources said.

Earlier Wednesday, Green -- whom Paul also represents at Klutch -- had sent Paul a text message soliciting his help in convincing James to join him in Golden State, sources said. Once, Green had been a lead recruiter on Kevin Durant's free agency signing with Golden State, but this was a far different, far more futile 11th-hour pursuit.

Dunleavy was the second team executive call to Pelinka on a possible James trade, sources said. After seeing James' cryptic social media post of an hourglass a week before the trade deadline, Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey called Pelinka to probe on a James trade and was immediately told that James wasn't available. In fact, Pelinka responded by asking Morey if Joel Embiid was available, sources said. And that ended that brief conversation. These sorts of bold trade calls are historically a common practice for Morey, who also called the Phoenix Suns and asked about the availability of Durant, only to be told Durant was not available, sources said.

The Warriors and Lakers' back-and-forth is different because it started on the ownership level and included Buss referring the Warriors to James' representation to check for themselves about James' commitment to the Lakers.

The Warriors could revisit a pursuit in the offseason, when James holds a $51.4 million player option on his contract for 2024-25. If James returns to the Lakers, he'll likely do so by declining that option and re-signing with L.A. on a new deal that would allow him an annual raise. James remains focused on returning to the Lakers in the offseason, sources told ESPN, but undoubtedly there will be many of these same suitors -- including Golden State and Philadelphia -- looking to convince James otherwise.

The Lakers and Warriors were restrained at the trade deadline. The Lakers are hopeful they can make a more significant roster upgrade in the offseason, when they'll have three future first-round picks available to use in trades, sources said.

The Warriors did have substantive talks on several trade scenarios, including with Chicago's Alex Caruso and Utah's Kelly Olynyk, sources said, but made only a money-saving deal to move guard Cory Joseph. Golden State is facing the potential of unrestricted free agency for four-time championship guard Klay Thompson.

The Lakers and Warriors are ninth and 10th, respectively, in the Western Conference standings.

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