EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — LeBron James says he’ll be indifferent to the Los Angeles Lakers’ offseason decision-making process after one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.
“It’s not my decision,” James said at a press conference Monday ahead of team exit talks. “It’s not my decision to sit here and say, ‘Well, that’s what we should bring back and have on the roster. It would be the decision of the front office. And obviously they can ask my opinion, but ultimately they will make the decision that they think is best for this franchise going forward.
Since James arrived at the Lakers in the summer of 2018, vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka has called James “a stakeholder,” allowing the star more influence when it comes to the personal decisions than the typical player. – managerial relationship.
However, after James and Anthony Davis’ contribution led LA to revise their roster to trade for Russell Westbrook last summer, only to see the team finish just 33-49 and fail to even qualify for the playoff tournament. -in, there seems to be a change in strategy.
“I think the front office will do whatever it takes to help this ball club become a better ball club from top to bottom,” James said. “Ask me for my opinion, I’ll give my opinion. But at the end of the day, they’re going to make the decision they think is best for the franchise.”
James was the first of 14 players scheduled to speak to reporters on Monday. Pelinka and Lakers coach Frank Vogel were not on the interview list. The Lakers officially fired Vogel shortly after James met with reporters.
Ahead of the announcement, James endorsed the coach he teamed up with to win a championship in 2020.
“I respect Frank as a coach and as a man,” James said. “At the end of the day, I don’t know what’s going to happen with Frank and him here, but I have nothing but respect for him.”
James also backed Westbrook, but didn’t say he wanted to bring the same core group back to Los Angeles next season.
“One thing that I love and always will love about Russ is his competitive spirit, which he brings to the game every night,” James said. “And when you’re in a profession where so many injuries happen and so many things happen and to have a guy who’s reliable and can put on a uniform every night, that’s something I respect…I’m not going to not to sit here and make front office decisions and things of that nature, but I love being a teammate to Russ.”
After playing just 56 games due to various injuries, James said he needed to use the offseason to heal. He said an MRI performed Friday on his sprained left ankle which had forced him to play in seven of LA’s last eight games revealed he would not need surgery or any type of injection to facilitate the recovery process. He will, however, need an additional four to six weeks of rest for his ankle before he can begin his offseason training.
“If we were the team I hoped and wanted to be, I shouldn’t have played in that New Orleans game after the injury,” James said of his ankle. “I kind of made it worse. But I wanted to see if we could do a late push.”
Approaching his 20th season and turning 38 in December, James said he remains determined to make a late-career effort to add another championship to his resume. He pushed back against a characterization that his choice to join the Lakers was anything but successful.
“I came here to win a championship. And I want to win more. So I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, but I’m always hungry for more,” James said. “I’m convinced this organization wants the same thing. It’s what this organization has always been. … So I did it. We did it. But I want to do it again.”
While James said in February that “it’s a franchise I see myself being with” in the future, he did not discuss the two-year, $97.1 million contract extension he was talking about. will be able to sign in August with the Lakers.
“Technically, because of the collective agreement, it can’t even be discussed until later in the year,” James said. “So we get to that point, we’ll see.”
James, who finished the season averaging 30.3 points but was ineligible for the league scoring title because he needed to play at least two more games to qualify, said he doesn’t had no intention of playing those games after LA fell out of playoff contention.
“Once we were knocked out of the playoffs, there was nothing left to say, nothing to think about,” James said. “I’m not going to be out there just playing meaningless games to try and win the scorer title. It’s so below me and where I’m at in my career. … For me, I ‘m 19 and aiming for a goalscoring title when you’re not making the playoffs is the craziest thing ever.”