EL SEGUNDO, California – LeBron James says he will be hands-free when it comes to the Los Angeles Lakers’ off-season decision-making process, which comes after one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history.
“It’s not my decision,” James said at a news conference Monday ahead of the team’s exit interviews. “It’s not my decision to sit here and say, ‘Well, that’s what we need to bring back and have on the list.’ “It would be the front office’s decision. And of course they can ask for my input, but in the end they will make the decision they feel is best for this franchise going forward.”
Since James joined the Lakers in the summer of 2018, vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka has referred to James as a “stakeholder,” allowing for greater influence from the star when it comes to staff decisions than with the typical player. management relationship.
But after James ‘and Anthony Davis’ input led LA to revise its list to swap for Russell Westbrook last summer, only to see the team only finish 33-49 and not qualify for the play-off tournament itself, see there seems to be a shift in strategy.
“I think the front office will do anything to help this ball club become a better ball club from top to bottom,” James said. “Ask me for my opinion, I will make my opinion known. But in the end, they will make the decision that they feel is best for the franchise.”
James was the first of 14 players to speak to reporters on Monday. Pelinka and Lakers coach Frank Vogel was not on the interview list. The Lakers officially fired Vogel shortly after James met with reporters.
Prior to the announcement, James approved the coach with whom he teamed up to win a championship in 2020.
“I respect Frank as a coach and as a man,” James said. “Ultimately, I do not know what to do with Frank and him, but I have nothing but respect for him.”
James also supported Westbrook, but stopped saying he wanted to bring the same core group back to LA next season.
“One thing about Russ that I love and will always love is just his competitive spirit, what he brings to the game every single night,” James said. “And when you’re in a profession where there’s so many injuries and so many things going on, and having a guy who’s reliable and can wear a uniform on every single night, that’s something I respect. “I’m not going to sit here and make decisions for the front office and that sort of thing, but I love being a teammate with Russ.”
After playing in just 56 games due to various injuries, James said he needs to use the offseason to heal. He said an MRI administered Friday on his left ankle sprain that caused him to sit in seven of LA’s last eight games revealed he would not require surgery or any kind of injection to help the recovery process. However, he will 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 wished we were, I should not have played in that New Orleans game after the injury,” James said of his ankle. “I made it a little worse. But I wanted to see if we could make a late push.”
As he approached his 20th season and turned 38 in December, James said he remains committed to making a late push in his career to add another championship to his resume. He pushed back on a characteristic that his choice to join the Lakers has been anything but a success.
“I came here to win a championship. And I want to win more. So I achieved what I wanted to achieve, but I’m still hungry for more,” James said. “I’m convinced this organization wants the same thing. That’s what this organization has always been about … So I’ve done it. We’ve done it. But I want to do it again.”
While James said in February that “this is a franchise I see myself joining” in the future, he has not discussed the $ 97.1 million two-year contract extension he will be eligible to sign with the Lakers in August.
“Technically, because of the collective agreement, it can not even be discussed until later in the year,” James said. “So we get to the point we get to see.”
James, who finished the season averaging 30.3 points but was not eligible for the league-scoring title because he had to play at least two more matches to qualify, said he did not intend to play those games after LA was out of the playoffs.
“Once we were eliminated from the playoffs, there was nothing to talk about, nothing to think about,” James said. “I’m not going to be out there just to play pointless matches to try to win the scoring title. It’s so under me and where I am in my career … For me I’m 19 years in and to go after a scoring title when you fail the off-season is the craziest thing ever. “