Lakers Reportedly Don't Believe LeBron James Will Sign with LA in 2014 Offseason

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2013

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 10:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat plead with a referee during a game  at American Airlines Arena on February 10, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

So much for that idea.

The Los Angeles Lakers have been planning their immediate future around the possibility of LeBron James signing with them. Indirectly, of course, but 100 percent true all the same.

Following Dwight Howard's departure, they pieced together a roster consisting of spare parts, players who likely won't be there next season. They did all that for next summer because they had big plans.

While those plans still include a courtship of LeBron, a source told ESPN's Henry Abbott that "there isn't a single person" within the organization who believes the Lakers can land him.

That stings. Contingency plans are (probably) already in place for such a free-agency strikeout, but that doesn't make it any easier to stomach. You don't serve halibut and call it Dominos, just like you don't admit that a failure to sign LeBron is actually a success.

Part of Los Angeles' internal skepticism is rooted in its finances. Though the Lakers have only $10.6 million of guaranteed money on the books leading into next summer, that's not including what it would take to re-sign free-agent-to-be Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol.

Going on 34 by then, Gasol doesn't figure to be a top priority. Without him, however, the Lakers have a glaring hole in the middle. That is, unless Robert Sacre is the center of their future.

Kobe previously said he doesn't plan on taking a pay cut to make room for other stars, which, if you're LeBron, isn't exactly an incentive to sign on the dotted line. He, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all accepted less money to play together. Sacrifices must be made when forming a superteam.

Los Angeles' situation is no different. Mitch Kupchak can't just re-sign Kobe, toss LeBron the max and call that a team. Other needs must be addressed.

Abbott also says Kobe's reputation as a teammate will hurt the Lakers' pursuit of anyone, not just LeBron. Players who sign in Los Angeles don't go there to be The Guy. Kobe is The Guy and always has been.

Will LeBron join the Lakers, knowing he'll be the Short Round to Kobe's Indiana Jones? Can the Lakers afford both of them and a competent supporting cast? Must hell freeze over for Kobe to take less money?

LeBron-a-palooza begins roughly one year from now, which is plenty of time for the Lakers to turn their collective frown upside down. But at the moment, it sure seems like it might be time to warm up to Plan B.