LeBron James bowed out of the Western Conference finals on Monday night before hinting a 21st season in the NBA was no sure thing.
“I’ve got a lot to think about, to be honest,” said James, repeating the sentence twice. “Just for me personally going forward with the game of basketball, I’ve got a lot to think about.”
James collected 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in Game 4 but missed a turnaround jumper and had a layup blocked with a chance to tie the game on each of the final two possessions of the 113-111 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
The Lakers built a double-digit lead in the first half, but lost it in the fourth quarter to be swept out of the Western Conference finals by the Nuggets. James was reflective, applying a wide-lens perspective to the loss when considering whether or not he could consider the season a success given the challenges the Lakers overcame to reach the conference finals.
“For me, it’s all about availability for me. It’s challenging, for sure,” he said. “It was a very challenging season. It was a pretty cool ride, but I don’t know. I don’t play for anything besides winning championships. I don’t get a kick out of making a conference appearance. I’ve done it. A lot. It’s not fun to me to not be able to be a part of getting to the Finals.”
General manager Rob Pelinka said Tuesday that conversations with James will happen.
“Coach (Darvin Ham) and I will speak to LeBron in the coming days. We all know he speaks for himself,” Pelinka said. “We’ll look forward to those conversations when the time is right.
“Obviously our hope is that his career continues.”
James said Monday that there’s no intended gray area in his statement that he has a lot to think about, clarifying in a follow-up: “If I want to continue to play. I got to think about it.”
James has two years, $97 million remaining on his contract but the second year is voidable.
“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. And just like us, they have inflection points in their career. Our job as a Lakers’ organization is to support any player on our team if they reach a career inflection point.
“LeBron is surrounded by incredible people, his family first. He’s got a great management team. I’m sure he’ll have conversations with them in the coming days.”
The NBA’s all-time leading scorer, James passed Michael Jordan as the NBA’s leading scorer in the playoffs and has four NBA championships. He led the Lakers to the 2020 NBA title in the playoff bubble during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to Monday, James had pointed to the opportunity to play on the same team with his son, Bronny, a likely member of the 2024 draft class.
James turns 39 on Dec. 30 and statistically showed no signs of slowing down. He played 55 regular-season games due to a foot injury, averaging 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists in the 2022-23 regular season.
–Field Level Media