Despite LeBron James repeatedly hinting he might retire from the NBA this summer when the Lakers had their run through the NBA playoffs end with a sweep by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals this week, it doesn’t seem like there are very many people who truly believe that is on the table.
In addition to just 8% of Lakers fans thinking James would actually hang it up, people close to James seem to be even less convinced, with members of his camp calling his bluff anonymously to multiple reporters over the last several days since James made his comments.
Sam Amick of The Athletic wrote this week that “sources close to James downplayed the notion that he would actually retire,” while Dave McMenamin of ESPN added on Friday that “a source close to James (told) ESPN on Thursday that he believes the Lakers star will indeed be back for season No. 21 and fulfill his contract.”
So, barring a shocking turn of events, it looks like James will be back with the Lakers when the season starts next year. But that’s not the only decision he has to make this offseason. As McMenamin reported on Wednesday, James is getting an MRI on the torn tendon in his right foot that he played through during the playoffs to determine if it will require surgery.
On Friday, Shams Charania of The Athletic provided the latest update on that storyline, reporting that surgery has not been ruled out yet, as well as a definitive timeline for how long such a procedure would keep James away from basketball activities:
- James will undergo further evaluations, but a surgery that could sideline him for two months during the offseason is among the possibilities, sources indicated.
- If surgery is required, James would be expected to recover by the start of training camp next season.
That is the most specific timeline we’ve gotten for James’ possible recovery from any surgery, and it’s notable to confirm the educated guesses that it would still leave him with enough time to recover before training camps kick off next year. So if James does return — again, as is widely expected by even those close to him — it does not appear as though he will need any company time to recover.
During a season that will see him turn 39 years old midway through, the Lakers will likely be cautious with James nonetheless, because if he was still capable of his level of play during the Western Conference Finals with just one intact tendon, one can only imagine the miracles he could work with fully functional lower extremities.
Still, this is good news in that even if James does get some scheduled rest for maintenance throughout the next year in a season that (hopefully) won’t require him to put the pedal to the floor just to make the play-in, he will at least be able to gel with his teammates and continue building chemistry with them on the floor right from the start of training camp. Whether the team runs it back or not, that will be a boon to a roster that will surely be a lot closer to the version that finishes the season than the one that showed up to last year’s mostly wasted camp.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.