The relationship between LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, from all appearances, is rather chilly right now. The Lakers are not very good, currently fighting for a play-in spot in the Western Conference and there is no evidence to suggest they have a prayer at turning things around in time for the playoffs. This is almost entirely because Los Angeles blew up their roster over the offseason to acquire Russell Westbrook-- a move they made at the behest of LeBron.
The trade deadline came and went without a significant move made, something that reportedly irked LeBron and his camp. The Lakers did not want to trade Westbrook because sending him anywhere would have required giving up their next available draft pick in 2027. Perhaps as a consequence of that, LeBron spent All-Star Weekend praising everybody but the Lakers and openly speaking about his desire to play his final season with his son. This paired with a report from The Athletic's Bill Oram, who had a source describe tensions between LeBron and the front office as "the early stages of a war" indicates things are not at all well between superstar and team.
Colin Cowherd discussed all this on The Herd today and argued that the Lakers trading LeBron wouldn't be the end of the world. In fact, it may be the best move for the franchise and it should be an option on the table.
Cowherd's strongest point is that LeBron's brand needs Los Angeles just as badly, arguably even more, than the Lakers need LeBron's brand. His city-based business interests obviously would not go away were he to leave L.A. but his constant presence makes a very significant difference. LeBron can initiate this cold war if he wants, but what's the end game if he wants to stick around in Los Angeles?
The Lakers would never do this, though, because being known as The Team That Traded LeBron is not something they'll willingly sign up for. If he asks, that's one thing. But while Cowherd's basketball arguments make a certain amount of sense the Lakers can't compromise their brand like that. Part of their whole schtick is that stars want to come play in purple and gold because the Lakers know how to treat those stars. Trading the star of the 21st century does not mesh with that perception. And if they do it without his permission, LeBron will undoubtedly use his immense influence to air all his dirty laundry to his colleagues around the league.
Cowherd is right to say that trading LeBron isn't quite as unthinkable as it was five years ago. That doesn't mean it's now a realistic option.