In the wake of the Lakers’ first-round exit last week, multiple members of the roster made their case for the team to run it back in free agency. LeBron James wasn’t one of them.
This subtext has gone slightly under the radar given the busy end to the season, but James was asked directly in the aftermath of Game 6 if he believes this team “deserves another shot in some form.”
“I think Rob (Pelinka) has done such a good job of constructing this team over the last few years, and he will continue to do that. I will have some input, he always asks for my input, has AD’s input, but at the end of the day we want to continue to get better,” James said. “I trust Rob, I trust Kurt, I trust everyone upstairs that does their diligence and our coaching staff.”
One doesn’t have to look much further than a roster stocked with centers and power forwards to keep James and Anthony Davis from having to downshift positions more often than they’d like to if they want to see the two stars’ influence on how this team is built, but James is also fair to not exactly commit to keeping this team fully intact. While a lot of their defeat came down to injuries, there are also clear flaws in this roster, its lack of shooting most glaringly.
Still, the injuries the Lakers suffered can’t just be a minor footnote in their demise. This team lost Davis by the end of the playoffs, and James himself was limited. It’s not a stretch to say that we might be having a very different conversation about them right now — and probably even covering them in the second round — if they had stayed healthy.
“Obviously the No. 1 thing for us is getting AD healthy,” James said. “It doesn’t matter what changes we make, we get big fella healthy and he’s back to what he was before the injury, get my ankle back right — which I 1,000% know that I’ll be 100% as far as my ankle when the season starts in October — and then go from there. That puts us in the best possible position to be successful next year.”
James, Davis, Pelinka and the rest of this brain trust built a champion less than a year ago. So as much as James’ comments felt as much like a deflection as an endorsement, his faith isn’t misplaced. But make no mistake: He’s putting the public onus on Pelinka to deliver.
“Like I said, Rob will do his due diligence and construct this team to where it needs to be to compete for a championship once again,” James said.
That process has surely already begun. But if it doesn’t end in a championship — or least closer to one than the Lakers ended up this season — how much James continues to trust his general manager could be something to monitor.
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