Fast forward seven months and one massively disappointing season and LeBron isn’t quite as willing to associate himself with that front office.
James was very closely associated with, at the very least, the Lakers acquisition of Russell Westbrook. But that blew up spectacularly and now James isn’t using “we” when referring to Lakers decisions the same way he did in the preseason.
At his exit interview, James spoke about his willingness to provide insight to the front office if they really want it.
“Well I mean, I think the front office is going to do whatever it takes to help this ball club become a better ball club, from top to bottom,” James said. “If they ask me my opinion then I’ll give my opinion, but at the end of the day they’re going to make the decisions that they feel are best for the franchise. And it’s my job to make sure I’m ready at the start of training camp and lead the franchise and lead the team that’s put on the floor, whoever that may be. So that is my focus.
“My focus is on getting rid of some of these injuries, time heals all, so wait for these injuries to go down and be ready when training camp that starts again. And it’s my job to lead the group of guys that the front office decide are going to be a part of this franchise.”
A very self-aware player, James knows that everyone is going to long tie him to the Westbrook decision. Last summer, James, Westbrook and Anthony Davis came together with the belief that the three of them would excel when they shared the court.
They didn’t share the court often this season but success was one of the last things they experienced even in their minutes together. Asked if he feels the Lakers Big Three needs more time, James doubled down on that not being his call.
“That’s not my decision,” James said. “I mean, it’s not my decision to sit here and say ‘this is who we should bring back on the roster.’ That would be the front office’s decision. Now obviously they may ask me for input, but at the end of the day, like I said earlier, they’ll make the decision they feel best suits this franchise going forward. Listen, if I come back and that’s the team, and whoever the team is, I’ll be ready.”
Does anyone really believe that LeBron wouldn’t have input on building the team? And does anyone really believe LeBron would be ok if the front office made roster decisions entirely independent of him?
Perhaps the Lakers could do that. It probably would impact those upcoming extension negotiations with LeBron. But the reality is, LeBron does have a big input in roster decisions. General manager Rob Pelinka did his part to help separate star player from the decision-making narratives, but it doesn’t change the fact he’s also said he constantly discusses decisions with his superstars.
Everyone has egg on their face for the past season when it comes to decision-makers. Now, as a group, they must get the Lakers out of this mess.