LeBron James declines to say if Game 5 could be last with Lakers

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Tuesday, April 30, 2024

DENVER -- LeBron James said he is undecided on his NBA future following the Los Angeles Lakers' 108-106 loss in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

James, 39, who finished his 21st season with 30 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds and 4 steals in L.A.'s season-ending loss to the Nuggets, said his immediate focus will be on his family and that his sights then will shift to training camp for USA Basketball ahead of the Paris Olympics this summer.

Asked how he would approach his decision about Year 22, James replied, "I don't have an answer ... to be honest. I haven't given it much thought."

He said he would eventually sit down with his agent, Rich Paul, and family to evaluate "what's best for my career."

"We'll cross that when we need to," James added.

When asked if he considered whether Monday's game could be his last with the Lakers, James said, "I'm not going to answer that."

James has until June 29 to either opt into the final year of his contract with the Lakers for $51.4 million or become an unrestricted free agent.

The biggest question mark for L.A. next season beyond James is the status of coach Darvin Ham. Ham's job is very much in jeopardy following the first-round exit, and the organization will make a decision on his coaching future in the coming days, sources told ESPN.

Ham was asked to reflect on his two seasons manning the sideline for the Lakers.

"My mind's all over the place right now, so that's a great question, but maybe at some point I'll give you an answer," Ham said. "It's been a hell of a two years, though, I'll tell you that. Sitting in this seat, it's been a hell of a two years. A lot of good things that got done, but ultimately, you want to win that ultimate prize. I know what that feels like. I had that feeling a couple of times.

"So, you want to do everything in your power to not to prevent and continue to feel this feeling we're feeling now, the feeling of defeat. So again, control what I can control, continue to grow and hopefully be a better coach for it."

Anthony Davis, who is under contract through 2027-28 with the Lakers, had 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting and 15 rebounds in Game 5. He played through a stinger injury to his left shoulder that caused his left arm to go numb and hang from the socket, Davis told ESPN, and he was able to finish the game.

Davis said he will give James space with his decision and check in with the four-time NBA champion when the time is right.

"I mean, he has been in this position numerous times in his career, where he had to make a decision ultimately for himself and his family," Davis said of James, whom he will be teaming up with at the Olympics. "I'll be right there supporting whatever he decides to do. ... It's still fresh. I mean, I'm pretty sure it's not even on his mind right now. But I'm pretty sure he'll come talk to me, tell me what's going on before he becomes public with the situation, just to keep me in the loop."

"Obviously, it's been a great five seasons with him," Davis continued. "If he does decide to come back, obviously this isn't what we want to be left at, losing in the first round. If he does, obviously our goal is to come back and be a championship contender, stay healthy and give Laker Nation what they deserve.

"But he has a decision to make, and when that time comes, he'll inform me and inform you guys."

Lakers point guardD'Angelo Russellalso has a player option for next season worth $18.7 million.

Russell said he hasn't decided his future plans after scoring 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting (2-for-10 from 3) with 6 assists Monday, but he looked back at the season fondly in terms of his personal production.

"Hell of a year by D'Angelo. Humbly saying that," Russell said. "Through the ups and downs, through all the whatever you want to call it, it never bothered me. I always kept myself sane. When I look at my phone, my family, my friends, my circle were texting me and telling me how proud they are of me. So, for me, that's all I need. I don't need anything else."

Lakers guard Austin Reaves endorsed L.A. bringing James and Russell back and said it was a "joy" to play with everyone on the team this season.

"If there's anything I can do to help that be possible, that's what I'll do," Reaves said. "Because I'll believe in what we have. And I believe that with a summer of getting better and then preseason, we could make some noise."

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