After wrapping up their 2018-19 campaign on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers will and head into a long offseason with very few certainties.
Who will be the next president of basketball operations following Magic Johnson’s surprise resignation on Tuesday? What is the plan for general manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Luke Walton? Is the new front office going to ship the young core out for an All-Star player?
It’s a lot to unpack and unfortunately, it doesn’t like anyone is in a hurry to get to it.
The one — and arguably only — thing Lakers fans can count on going into next season is LeBron James. James is under contract for at least another two seasons, and while it’s possible he could request a trade in the midst of all of the chaos in and around the organization, it’s been reported that he hasn’t lost faith in the Lakers, and thus is unlikely to be going anywhere for now.
During an interview with Jim Hill of CBS Los Angeles, the four-time league MVP sent a message to Lakers fans, saying he’s here for the long haul:
“I came here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to play winning basketball and take this team back to where it should be. I see all those banners. I see all those banners — all those championship banners — and I want to be a part of one of those.
“And I also see all those banners with all the Laker greats: Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Elgin, Wilt, Kobe, Shaq — I want to be up there too. That’s my motivation, and I won’t stop until I put this franchise in a position to compete for a championship, hopefully win a championship and hopefully see my jersey hang in the rafters. That’s what it’s about.”
Now, it’s important to note that this interview took place before Johnson resigned, but that is unlikely to functionally change James’ goals given the report mentioned above.
James was unable to carry the Lakers to the playoffs this season, but that had a lot to do with the fact that he missed 17 games with a groin injury in the thick of the playoff race. Had James not missed so much time at crucial point of the season, it’s not unreasonable to think the Lakers would have punched a ticket to the postseason, even with all of the other key injuries on the roster.
Now, James will have the most time off he’s had since his sophomore season, allowing him the chance to get some much-needed rest for his legs, which have logged the second-most minutes among active NBA players. Dirk Nowitzki, who announced his retirement earlier this week, was first. Now that he’s retiring, James will take on that spot to start next season.
Not being able to see James or the Lakers in the postseason this year stings for sure, but at least Los Angeles will get a well-rested James for the 2019-20 season. Even at 34 years old, a well-rested James is one of the most menacing players in the league, and a well-rested James that is saying he’s willing to do anything to help the Lakers win is arguably even more dangerous.