Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James led the team to a surprise appearance in the Western Conference Finals this season.
The backdrop here was a 38-year-old James dealing with a torn tendon in his foot as he navigated through the stretch run of the regular season and the playoffs. It led to the four-time NBA champion openly questioning whether he would return for another season in the Association following Los Angeles being swept by the Denver Nuggets in the conference finals.
We’re now hearing more about James potentially returning to the Lakers for a sixth season. According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, “there’s about a 10% chance” James does not return to the Lakers for the 2023-24 campaign.
“Everyone with and around the team I’ve spoken to believes he’s returning,” Buha reported.
This falls in line with a report from Sportsnaut’s Mark Medina following Los Angeles’ playoff elimination that people close to the star forward believe he’ll be back with the Lakers. While James has not gone on record to admit such, things seem to be pointing in this direction.
LeBron James stats (2022-23): 28.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 6.8 APG, 50% shooting
While James struggled more out on the perimeter this past season, he’s still playing at an All-NBA level. That was clear as Los Angeles overcame early-season struggles. It was also darn clear during the NBA Playoffs (24.5 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 6.5 APG). Heck, James put up 40 points in the Lakers’ Game 4 loss to Denver.
So, why the talk about retirement or moving on to another team? Surgery is on the table for the torn tendon in James’ right foot. Typically, an injury of this ilk requiring surgery takes months to return from. While James has proven to be in great shape, his relatively advanced age for an NBA player can create a longer recovery time.
We’re also hearing some rumors that a certain Golden State Warriors player is already recruiting James to Northern California. While that seems to be a pipe dream more than anything, stranger things have happened.
As LeBron James continues to “contemplate” his future, the Los Angeles Lakers are preparing for an important summer. Star guard D’Angelo Russell is slated to become a free agent after being relegated to bench duties late in the playoffs. Los Angeles continues to be linked to James’ former teammate, Kyrie Irving, on a never-ending loop.
Meanwhile, the Lakers have two restrictred free agents in that of Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura to consider locking up long term.
There are certainly a lot of moving parts in Southern California right now. And while the Lakers are approaching the summer as if James will return for the 2023-24 season, that’s not 100% etched in stone.