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LeBron clears air, says he wants to stay with Lakers “as long as I can play”

Los Angeles Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 25: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on prior to the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Arena on February 25, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

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His message was sent and received. Now it was time for LeBron James to calm the speculation wave and assure Lakers fans.

After his Lakers lost in dramatic fashion to the team down the hall, LeBron told reporters postgame he does not want to leave Los Angeles.

“This is a franchise I see myself being with. I’m here. I’m here,” LeBron said. “I see myself being with the purple and gold as long as I can play.”

He said he was very confident the Lakers front office could put a championship contending team around him again next season. LeBron added the things he did say in Cleveland All-Star weekend got blown up in a way they should not have.

“I don’t understand how some of my comments over the weekend were taken to a whole different area...” LeBron said. For example, his comment he could see himself retiring a Cavalier didn’t mean he wanted to play for them.

As for playing with his son, Bronny someday, that is a dream, but again LeBron said his words got spun out of control.

“I also have a goal that, if it’s possible — I don’t even know if it’s possible — that if I can play with my son,” LeBron said. “I would love to do that. Is that, like, something that any man shouldn’t want that in life? That’s like the coolest thing that could possibly happen. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with this franchise.”

LeBron is as savvy a player in dealing with the media and the impact of his words as we have seen. He knew how what he said in Cleveland would be perceived, especially with his history of being ruthless in moving on from franchises.

It was a message to the Lakers about being aggressive and building a contender now — LeBron is 37 and knows his time in the league is short (despite his still All-NBA level of play). It was a message about trading picks to get things done.

The message was sent, and now came the diplomacy. LeBron’s agent and friend Rich Paul had already gone to the Lakers front office to play the role of good cop and let them know LeBron didn’t want to leave.

Now LeBron has said that publicly, calming the speculation and trade stories. His message sent, LeBron can move on.

The Lakers’ front office is left with the tall task this summer of flipping this roster into a contender around LeBron and Anthony Davis. That will be far from simple and lead to plenty of headlines, but not until June and July.