LeBron James: Lakers need ‘roster that can bring more wins’
LeBron James anticipates changes this summer after the Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs for the seventh time in the past nine seasons.
James said Monday it’s natural to begin the offseason thinking about what adjustments might be necessary to get the Lakers back to the NBA Finals.
He said he’s mulling any “roster that can bring more wins” in 2022-23.
James said he respects head coach Frank Vogel, who was fired not long after James met the media on Monday.
“I respect Frank as a coach and as a man. He’s a man who gives everything to the game,” James said. “At the end of the day I don’t know what’s going to happen with Frank and him being here, but I have nothing but respect for him.”
James averaged 30.3 points per game this season, becoming the first player to improve his career scoring average from the previous year in his 19th season. And he scored 30-plus points 34 times, easily setting another NBA record for a player in his 19th season.
He’s eligible for a contract extension with the Lakers this summer but said Monday he hasn’t had a conversation with the team about that deal.
The Lakers won the 2020 NBA title in the “bubble” in Florida. All-Star teammate Anthony Davis said Sunday night he believes the duo can remain the center of a championship team, but admitted there is a need to understand what has changed for the team since the title. James concurred, pointing to health and the inability to keep the team’s stars on the court as the reason for the 2021-22 disappointments.
Davis played 40 games after just 36 games played in 2020-21 and a veteran roster assembled around the star nucleus was unable to pick up the slack.
“The reason we were not very good together is we weren’t on the damn floor together. That’s the No. 1 damn thing,” Davis said.
Roundly critiqued for pushing the Lakers to pursue Russell Westbrook — and reportedly discouraging the signing of DeMar DeRozan in free agency — James claimed his focus will be on getting ready for training camp.
“I think the front office will do whatever it takes to win,” he said, adding he’ll share his opinion if the team asks for it.
General manager Rob Pelinka said all accountability for personnel decisions rests with him, and he plans to change the tune prior to next season.
“We had a very disappointing season. That will not be the case next year,” Pelinka said.
Pelinka feels comfortable that James wants to remain with the Lakers. During All-Star weekend, James sparked speculation he could be considering another relocation when he praised the city of Cleveland and said “the door isn’t closed” on playing for the Cavs again someday.
“Every indication that we’ve received is he sees the Lakers as his home,” Pelinka said.
James, 37, left Cleveland in 2018 to sign with the Lakers. He was blunt Monday in his assessment of the move.
“I came here to win a championship. I came here to win more,” James said.
And though he ended the season idle due to a sprained left ankle and was told to rest for four to six weeks, retirement is not one of the options on the table for James. He said there is no cap on how much longer he wants to play.
“I can still produce at a high level, as I showed this year,” he said.
James also said Monday that an MRI confirmed he won’t need surgery on his sprained ankle or any injections to repair the injury. He said he aggravated the injury by playing in the Lakers’ game vs. the New Orleans Pelicans on April 1. He played 40 minutes in that contest, scoring 38 points, but then missed the Lakers’ final five games because of the injury.
Pelinka agrees about James’ high level of play this season, but he didn’t show his hand regarding the makeup of the team around the superstar. For that reason, James said he will prepare as if he needs to play any of the five positions on the court for Los Angeles.
“He feels highly motivated to return next year and have another elite year,” Pelinka said. “For him to play that way in Year 19 is jaw-dropping.”