The Los Angeles Lakers are facing a big summer after failing to make the playoffs for a franchise-record sixth consecutive season and LeBron James is at the center of it with experts throwing doubts over his long-term future with the franchise. The three-time NBA champion missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2004-05 campaign and had made eight straight NBA Finals until this season’s failure.

The Lakers have parted ways with head coach Luke Walton and hired Frank Vogel to take over the reins while Magic Johnson has also stepped down from his position as president of basketball operations placing more responsibility on general manager Rob Pelinka.

James has made it clear that the Lakers need to recruit high caliber players in the offseason to ensure they can challenge for a place in the playoffs and possibly the title next season and has vowed to help the team recruit the best players. The franchise has $38 million in max salary cap space and are targeting elite players like Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard in free agency while also planning a trade for Anthony Davis.

The 15-time NBA All-Star is keen to win with the Lakers and is confident it will happen before the end of his time in Los Angeles – he has three years remaining on his current contract. However, the instability surrounding the team is said to be alienating the top players with the likes of Kevin Durant, Leonard and Irving looking at other franchises as their first option in free agency.

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, speaking on The Sedano Show, quoted somebody connected to the Lakers saying that if the franchise “whiff” free agency and the trade and not land a top player, James will either leave or asked to be traded. He says the LeBron era might be over before it even begins in Los Angeles.

LeBron James
LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center in Los Angeles, March 4, 2019. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

“I'm hearing that if they whiff on free agency, and if they whiff on a trade, which I don't know how likely that is, but if that happens, they've got big trouble with LeBron. I mean the LeBron era could be over before it starts here,” Plaschke said, as quoted on CBS Sports.

“I heard this for the first time yesterday, somebody very connected said 'You know what, if they whiff, LeBron's going to say either I'm out of here or get me out of here, or the Lakers just might as well just get him out of here.' So this is huge,” he added.

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin is also of the opinion that everyone close to James is just waiting to see how the coming weeks pan out in terms of recruiting a star player to play alongside James in the coming season. If the criteria is not met, he suggests that there is a possibility of the franchise losing their biggest player.

“Everyone I speak to associated with LeBron, they are holding the rope for now, and all they can do is be positive because this is going to be a crucial five-week stretch. But on the other side of that, if it's July 10th in Los Angeles and it's Nic Vucevic [that the Lakers have had to settle for], or whomever does not meet the criterion of bringing in a star who can make them an immediate contender, you could only imagine where things could go,” McMenamin said.