The Los Angeles Lakers are taking a wait-and-see approach with LeBron James as rumors swirl about the four-time MVP considering retirement.
Word came out shortly after the Lakers were swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals that James was weighing retirement after the conclusion of his 20th season in the NBA. Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has not spoken to James about his future yet and is giving him some space.
“We all know he speaks for himself. And we look forward to those conversations when the time is right,” Pelinka said during the Lakers’ exit interviews on Tuesday.
James has played more than 1,700 games between the regular and postseason. He’s won four titles and became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer this season. Pelinka knows James has earned the right to step away from the game if he feels like it’s time.
“LeBron has given as much to the game of basketball as anyone who’s ever played,” Pelinka said. “When you do that, you earn a right to decide whether you’re going to give more. Sometimes we put athletes, entertainers on a pedestal, but they’re humans. They have inflection points in their careers.
“Our job is to support any player on our team if they reach a career inflection point. LeBron is surrounded by incredible people — his family first, Savannah and his kids. He’s got a great management team led by Rich and Maverick,” Pelinka said. “I’m sure he’ll have those conversations with them in the coming days. We’ll be in contact with him, his team, and really providing nothing but support for him.”
Questions About LeBron James’ Motive Behind Retirement Talk
James has two years and $97 million remaining on his contract. The final year is a player option. He’s still performing at a high level and put up a massive 40-point, 10-rebound, 9-assist performance in the Lakers’ season-ending loss. The 38-year-old James played every minute of the matchup.
Despite dealing with some recent injuries, James clearly has some tread left on his tires after two decades in the NBA and he has almost $100 million left to earn — which even for an athlete of his stature would be hard to walk away from.
“We’ll see what happens going forward,” James said after the Game 4 loss. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ve got a lot to think about, to be honest. Just for me personally going forward with the game of basketball.”
“I’d bet on LeBron’s comments in part being a negotiation tactic: I’ll retire unless you go all-in next season,” Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer tweeted. “And the player James probably wants the Lakers to acquire is Kyrie Irving.”
Lakers Intend to Keep Core of Roster Together
The Lakers made a series of moves to reshape their roster around the trade deadline, acquiring key pieces like D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, Jarred Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley. Pelinka went as far as to call the trades “pre-agency,” laying out that the team plans to keep those players around, despite various contract hurdles.
Pelinka did not back off that plan while speaking to the media Tuesday.
“Keeping that continuity is going to be very important,” Pelinka said. “That’s a high priority to keep our core players together.”
James, Anthony Davis and Max Christie are the only players with guaranteed contracts for next season. Some significant pieces the Lakers will have to make decisions on are Austin Reaves and Hachimura, who are restricted free agents. Vanderbilt and Malik Beasley have player options. Russell will be an unrestricted free agent and is coming off a rough series against the Nuggets.