Speaking for the first time since Sunday when he capped a wild All-Star weekend of rumor, speculation, inference and intrigue, LeBron James cut through all the pretense by saying exactly what was on his mind.
Comments about other general managers were just comments. Wishful thinking about playing with his son, Bronny, is just wishful thinking. And any early-stage orchestration about a Los Angeles exit is untrue.
Asked if he could see himself with this team long term, James was as direct about his future as he’s been.
“This is a franchise I see myself being with. I’m here. I’m here,” James said. “… I literally live in the moment. I do. I live in the moment. I see myself being with the purple and gold as long as I can play.
“But I also have a goal that if it’s possible — I don’t even know if it’s possible — that if I can play with my son, I would love to do that. Is that like, something that any man shouldn’t want that in life? That’s like the coolest thing that could possibly happen. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be with this franchise.”
James’ comments came after a meeting between his agent, Rich Paul, and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and general manager Rob Pelinka to reaffirm James’ commitment to the organization, people with knowledge of the meeting confirmed to the Los Angeles Times. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
The situation, including James’ compliments of executives Les Snead and Sam Presti and an interview with the Athletic during which he said a return to Cleveland was possible, were “just noise,” according to a high-ranking member of Lakers management.
After a three-point loss Friday, when he missed a game-tying shot at the buzzer, James received no questions about the play — the bulk of his 11-minute news conference was dedicated to explanations about what he meant during interviews over the last week, what his role with the organization is and what he wants and expects moving forward.
First, James said his comments to the Athletic were more open ended, that he could possibly retire with the Cleveland Cavaliers on some sort of ceremonial basis. He also said that his desire to play with Bronny is, if it’s possible, too exciting of an opportunity to pass up, but one that shouldn’t speak to any displeasure with the Lakers.
He also said that the Lakers’ losing ways this season made for an environment for these kinds of questions to arise, especially since James hasn’t played for a team with this kind of sub-.500 record since his first two seasons in the NBA.
He also acknowledged his role in the Lakers’ roster reconstruction, a role he’s taken on throughout his career, though he put limits on his influence.
“They ask for my opinion and I voice my opinion and what I believe,” James said of the organization for which he plays. “But I don’t press any buttons. That’s what our front office is for and that’s what our leadership group is for. I don’t press no buttons. So we can state that right now. I do wish that we were just playing better basketball.”
He complimented Pelinka, like Snead, for mortgaging picks to trade for Anthony Davis, saying that injuries that have kept Davis and Russell Westbrook and himself off the court are the root cause of the Lakers’ problems this season.
Asked if he believed the Lakers’ front office could construct a winner around him, James offered support.
“Very confident. They’ve done it. They’ve shown me that,” he said of the 2020 NBA title the Lakers won. “Ever since I got here, the front office of Jeanie, Linda [Rambis], Kurt [Rambis], everybody, has welcomed me with open arms and has given me an opportunity to play for a historical franchise and welcomed my family in. And I just try to give back my part of the game and inspire kids and inspire people that want to follow the Lakers and put them back at a level that they’re accustomed to being. And that’s always been my focus.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.