Lakers hope LeBron James continues career after playoff elimination

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The Los Angeles Lakers hope that LeBron James will decide to continue his career after he recovers from a difficult end to his season.

James did not meet with the media the day after the NBA’s all-time leading scorer said he needed time to think about his basketball future following the Lakers’ elimination from the Western Conference finals.

James, 38, has previously skipped his team’s postseason media exit interviews, but his decision Tuesday left Lakers fans wondering what his intentions were with his enigmatic comments after a sweep of four games by the Denver Nuggets.

General manager Rob Pelinka and coach Darvin Ham said they will talk to James soon about his future.

“We all know (James) speaks for himself, and we’ll look forward to those conversations when the time is right,” Pelinka said. “LeBron has given as much to basketball as anyone who has ever played the game. When you do that, it earns you the right to decide if you’re going to give more…Obviously, our hope would be that his career continues, but we want to give him time to to have that turning point and support him along the way.”

Despite James’ 40-point performance, including a career-high 31 in the first half, the seventh-seeded Lakers were swept by the top-seeded Nuggets in a 113 loss -111 in Game 4 on Monday night, ending James. attempt to win his fifth career championship in his 20th season in the NBA.

Ham joked: “After a tough loss like that, the work we’ve put in this season, I think I was ready to retire after last night, too.”

Pelinka and Ham declined to speculate on whether James’ frustration stemmed from his lingering foot injury, which could require surgery to fully correct. He missed a month of the regular season down the stretch, but returned to his usual heavy workload before the playoffs.

James had been largely healthy throughout his NBA career until he reached age 30 in Los Angeles, where he has missed large chunks of four of his five seasons.

“When there’s an injury, you look for multiple medical opinions, and there were some who doubted whether he could play again this season,” Pelinka said. “For him to finish the season playing virtually 48 minutes and post a virtual triple-double of 40 points as a player in the 20th year of his NBA career is amazing.”

All of the Lakers said they understood why James would question his future after an outstanding performance in the loss.

“I feel like that’s human nature, being his age and playing at the level he’s playing at,” Troy Brown Jr. said. “Personally, I feel because of his love for the game he will continue to play. But I don’t blame him at all.”

Pelinka said he hopes to keep much of the Lakers’ current core around James and Anthony Davis, calling staff continuity “a high priority” after several years of big annual turnover. James is due $46.9 million in the first season of his two-year, $97 million contract extension, but several key contributors to the playoff run are free agents.

“I think there’s proof of concept that this was a really good team,” Pelinka said. “But we’re not going to rest on our laurels. If there’s an opportunity to improve further, we’re always looking to improve. But we have a core that’s very successful, and that’s a good place to start.”

Los Angeles was one of the best teams in the NBA after their moves at the trade deadline, going 18-8 to finish the regular season even without James. The Lakers then made an impressive run to the conference finals, knocking off second-seeded Memphis and defending champion Golden State, but came up short against the powerhouse Nuggets.

“We feel like we have special players in the locker room who enjoy playing with each other,” Pelinka said. “We know there’s more growth and improvement in this group, especially if we get a training camp together.”

Report from The Associated Press.

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