“It’s not my decision,” James said 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 may 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 not even qualify for the play-in tournament, 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.”
Pelinka took charge of Westbrook’s misfire and was keen to separate his role from James’s in building the team, despite the collaboration.
“Roster decisions ultimately rest on my shoulders,” Pelinka said on Monday. “And I’ll take the contribution of LeBron and Anthony as our two captains. I’ve done that my entire tenure. But at the end of the day, I think I’m the one running the basketball operations department and will take ultimate responsibility for any roster decisions that are made.”
Pelinka said LA will continue to build around James, with his average of 30.3 points per game this season showing he has plenty left in the tank.
“LeBron James is a player who is on basketball’s Mount Rushmore, and every season from his 19th birthday so far should be considered a precious commodity,” Pelinka said. “And we have to do everything we can to be guardians of his legacy and try to build the best possible team around him. And that’s something that we had the objective for this last year and obviously this list “It didn’t work. But there’s a great level of confidence in our working with him to make sure we get it right this summer and fix it.
“We don’t know exactly how long LeBron will play, but of course this year he played at the highest level. An incredible year for him offensively and he feels, in my exit meeting with him, very motivated to come back. next year and have another elite, elite level of play. … For him to play at this level in the 19th year of his career is pretty mind-blowing, and his motivation to come back and do it next year is palpable.
The Lakers officially fired Frank 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. [April 1] 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 that 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.”
In February, James called the Lakers “the franchise I see myself with” going forward, but he didn’t discuss the two-year, $97.1 million contract extension he’ll be able to sign in august.
“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.”
Pelinka seemed confident that the two sides will reach an agreement when the ABC allows it.
“Every indication we’ve gotten is that he calls the Lakers his home,” Pelinka said. “The feeling is that he loves being a Laker and sees it as a long-term home and that’s been said loud and clear.”
James, who finished second in the league in scoring against Philadelphia Joel Embid (30.6 ppg) but was ineligible for the scoring title because he needed to play at least two more games to qualify, said he had no intention of playing those games after LA is 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.”