The Lakers have hired Redick and drafted Bronny. They clearly hope to lock down LeBron for good next

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Three days after LeBron James’ podcast partner became the Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach, the team drafted James’ oldest son, Bronny.

Unless they rename the franchise after him next, it’s difficult to think of anything more the Lakers could do to make sure the top scorer in NBA history stays with them for the rest of his matchless career.

Well, short of actually acquiring a third superstar for James after years of trying.

Although James’ future still won’t be a sure thing until he formally decides where he’ll play next season, the Lakers’ addition of his 19-year-old son in the second round of the draft Thursday seems to make it extraordinarily unlikely LeBron will be anywhere but Los Angeles in the fall.

“The biggest moments in sports happen with the Lakers,” general manager Rob Pelinka said. “That’s how we’re built, and we’re excited to see this story unfold.”

LeBron and Bronny — LeBron James Jr., that is — would be the first father and son to play in the NBA at the same time, let alone on the same team. If LeBron Sr. picks up his $51.4 million player option for next season this week, he would guarantee he’ll get to take his son to work in the fall.

Pelinka was careful not to get ahead of himself while triumphantly discussing Bronny’s potential, but the GM acknowledged that a father-son pairing in purple and gold was “something that could be magical.”

“We know and have to respect, of course, that LeBron has a decision about his opt-out,” Pelinka said. “I’m sure he and his family and his agent will deliberate what they’re going to do there, and he has freedom to decide whatever is best for him and his family. But if it worked out that he was on our team next season, NBA history could be made, and NBA history should be make in a Lakers uniform.”

With their two major moves this week, the Lakers have made it clear they’re determined to stick with James as their centerpiece and leader through his record-tying 22nd NBA season this fall and beyond.

Los Angeles’ new coach is JJ Redick, who hosted the “Mind the Game” podcast with James this year. Redick is a 15-year NBA veteran who has never coached an adult basketball game, yet the Lakers quickly made the unusual choice of hiring the broadcaster after Dan Hurley turned them down — and Pelinka didn’t deny that Redick’s compatibility with James was a plus.

The Lakers then used the 55th overall pick on Bronny, who put up modest statistics in his only year of college at Southern California. Bronny James is undeniably talented, but an identical player with a different name would have been less likely to be drafted.

Pelinka and the Lakers scouted Bronny James extensively, and he performed solidly at the pre-draft camp and again in a workout at the Lakers’ training complex, which was followed by a meeting with Pelinka. Pelinka said he never even asked Bronny what he thought about the potential pressure of playing alongside his father — something that even LeBron has said Bronny wasn’t necessarily eager to do.

“We really kept the draft process to Bronny being a Laker, and what we felt like we needed to do to help him become great,” Pelinka said. “We didn’t talk a lot about that, just because (we) wanted to respect his dad’s decision as a free agent, so that wasn’t really something that came up.”

That decision feels ever more like a formality now, depending on how James decides to do it. The 20-time All-Star and four-time NBA champion has spoken repeatedly over the years of his desire to play a season with his son, and now the dream is a signature away from reality.

James could pick up his option for 2024-25, or he could sign a new extension for even more money. He could get a maximum three-year, $162 million deal that would give him the longest career in NBA history if he played out the contract.

Either option would likely be just fine with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, who showed a similarly passionate loyalty to Kobe Bryant when she pushed to give him a $48.5 million extension for the final two seasons of his career despite his growing injury problems.

Bronny likely doesn’t the get Lakers closer to winning now, but their choice with the 17th overall pick just might: Dalton Knecht, the high-scoring Tennessee wing who won the SEC Player of the Year award, appears to be one of the most pro-ready players in the draft, and not just because he’s already 23 years old.

“In my mind, I thought there’s no way a player that skilled would be available to us (at No. 17),” Pelinka said.

Pelinka has repeatedly tried to keep fan expectations low for a major player addition to a team that lost to Denver in the first round of the postseason, instead targeting incremental improvements to the core around James and Anthony Davis — along with a potential upgrade on the bench from Redick’s innovative basketball mind.

“We’ve explored every upgrade we could to make our team better,” Pelinka said. “Trades in general have just because more difficult because of the new CBA system, and so there’s less access to making those big moves than maybe there was under the old system. But it didn’t keep us from trying to look at everything, and ways to put ourselves in a position to be better.”



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