The Los Angeles Lakers are finished for the season, and now the team begins an offseason that’s set to be filled with questions about LeBron James‘ future in the league. General manager Rob Pelinka and head coach Darvin Ham addressed some of those questions in the team’s exit interviews Tuesday.
“Personally, going forward with the game of basketball, I’ve got a lot to think about,” James said Monday after the Western Conference finals Game 4 loss to the Denver Nuggets. On Tuesday, Pelinka and Ham agreed that the 38-year-old deserves as much time as he needs.
“LeBron has given as much to the game of basketball as anyone who’s ever played. When you do that, you earn the right to decide if you want to give more,” Pelinka said. “Obviously, our hope would be that his career continues.”
Pelinka opened his comments by characterizing the team’s recently concluded season as one of “advancement and growth.” The team was able to recover from sitting 13th in the Western Conference in February and make a deep playoff run before getting swept in the round before the NBA Finals. Pelinka credited Ham and the rest of the Lakers’ coaching staff for guiding a team that “competed to the bitter end.”
Ham joked that the season and its final games were so difficult that he also considered retirement.
“In all seriousness, LeBron has earned the right to do whatever he wants to do, make whatever choice,” Ham said. Noting that he isn’t one to speculate on what that choice will be, he thanked James for “being a consistent resource for me this year as a first-time head coach.”
Ham joined the Lakers as an assistant coach in 2011. He held the same role with the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks before he was tapped for the head-coaching job in Los Angeles last June. His full message to James is captured in the video below:
Looking to the youth
While James is unsure about his future in the league, Pelinka is sure about the futures of a few players.
“I’d say this resoundingly clear: Our intentions are to keep our core of young guys together,” he said.
His statement echoes NBA insider Marc Stein‘s Monday report that the Lakers are expected to retain Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura, even if it means matching offers from rival teams.
Both are restricted free agents this summer after demonstrating their value in the postseason. Reaves notched three straight 20-point games against the Nuggets, averaging 16.9 points, 4.6 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 16 games in the 2023 playoffs. Hachimura averaged 12.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in the postseason, shooting 55.7% from the field.
Pelinka said continuity is something that set the Nuggets apart.
“That’s a high priority for us. We feel like we have a special group of players,” he said.
Dennis Schröder and D’Angelo Russell also addressed reporters Tuesday. Russell, a free agent, said he viewed his season as a success. While acknowledging the business aspect of the sport, he expressed a desire to stay in Los Angeles. “Would love to be here and contribute,” he said.
If the focus is not to disrupt the team, it’s possible the Lakers won’t make as many offseason moves as originally expected.