LeBron James doesn’t appear to be wasting much time sitting on the couch watching the NBA playoffs.
The Lakers superstar is spending his offseason reaching out to potential free agents about joining him in Los Angeles, according to multiple reports. And one of the people James is reportedly targeting is Sixers swingman Jimmy Butler.
“[Butler] likes L.A, LeBron James has been in touch with him and he would join the Lakers in a second if they offered him a max deal,” Los Angeles Times sports columnist Arash Markazi wrote on Twitter Thursday.
Markazi isn’t alone in suggesting James has interest in playing alongside Butler. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported on Thursday’s Pardon the Interruption that the Lakers star reached out to both Butler and Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard more than a month ahead of the official start of NBA free agency, which this year is June 30 at 6 p.m.
“From what I understand, [James] has already begun the recruiting process,” Windhorst said. “There’s no tampering enforcement by players, and while Magic Johnson — the guy who got in trouble for tampering before is no longer there — LeBron is ‘tamperer-in-chief’ of the Lakers right now.”
Butler is slated to make $19.84 million next season, but he has a player option that he’s expected to decline, making him a free agent. Following the Sixers’ season-ending loss to the Raptors earlier this month, Butler told reporters he enjoyed playing in Philadelphia, where he became a fan favorite during the second half of the season and playoffs.
“As long as you play hard, the city loves you; and give your all, that is all they ask of you,” Butler said. “It has definitely been fun to meet and interact with the fans and the people in the organization and absolutely everybody is amazing.”
Despite the outreach by James, it’s unclear if Butler would want to play alongside the NBA superstar. Prior to Butler’s signing with the Sixers last season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that playing in Los Angeles was “less appealing” to Butler after James signed with the Lakers:
There’s also still the possibility the Sixers will offer Butler a max contract to remain in Philadelphia alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. After trading for Tobias Harris back in February, general manager Elton Brand said the team’s managing partners were on board with re-signing both free agents "to keep this core together a long time.”
“Technically, knock on wood, I’ll get a max contract anywhere I choose to go,” Butler told reporters earlier this month. “You always want to be able to win. That’s the key for me, for sure. You’re looking at coaches, looking at the city. There’s a lot that goes into it But for me, as long as I’ve got my people with me, everybody knows I’m cool if they’re happy.”