The Los Angeles Lakers are heading into the 2021-22 season hoping to vie for an 18th NBA title. LeBron James will play a significant factor in pushing the franchise toward contending for a championship. It’s led the Lakers to take another crucial step by altering his role next season to extend his career.
LeBron James remains one of the NBA’s best players heading into his 19th season
James continues to perform at an elite level after another strong campaign.
A nagging ankle injury derailed a sizable chunk of his 18th year, but it didn’t prevent him from leading the Lakers to the playoffs. James finished averaging 25.0 points, 7.8 assists, and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 51.3% from the floor and 36.5% from 3-point range. James extended his NBA record to 17 straight campaigns averaging at least 25.0 points per contest.
James spent the early portion of the offseason working toward a full recovery from his ankle injury. The Lakers are taking another notable step to extend the star forward’s career.
LeBron James is embracing a role shift that should extend his prime with the Lakers
As James enters his fourth year with the Lakers, it’s shifted more attention toward his long-term NBA future.
The four-time league MVP is moving another year closer to his 40s and has yet to show any noticeable decline in his performance. Meanwhile, the Lakers continue to construct the roster around him and Anthony Davis as the central pieces to lead the franchise forward to championship contention.
It’s hard to dictate precisely when James will experience any notable regression in his play. The Lakers may finally be taking some steps to ease his physical workload. Jake Fisher from Bleacher Report recently stated on the Halftime application that Rich Paul is telling others that the four-time NBA champion will play more at power forward this upcoming campaign.
The shift in his role is minor, but it does mean that James may work more in the post that should lessen some of the physical wear and tear. The 36-year-old will be more effective in that spot as his passing will become more effective, especially with the Lakers surrounding shooters around him this offseason.
It hasn’t been just that as the Lakers went out to acquire a playmaking point guard in Russell Westbrook with the intent of having another player that can ease the offensive workload. Westbrook fits that bill to a tee with his all-around play, especially through his scoring and passing.
James can remain the team’s primary scoring option, but he’s nearing two decades in the league, and Father Time will catch up to him at some point. Beyond that, the Lakers want to maximize his talent now, and these subtle changes should help extend that window.
LeBron James is hoping to play to several years
The Lakers continue to hold the fortune of having James lead the charge.
The 17-time All-Star continues to prove to be an ageless wonder while remaining one of the league’s best players. His retirement is inevitable, but his tone regarding his fate is ever-evolving. This offseason, he’s shifted toward a wider net of time concerning his NBA future as he suggested he wants to play several more years.
“I truly hope that I can finish my career with the Lakers,” James said on the Smartless” podcast, via ClutchPoints. “However many years that is, if it’s four, five, six, whatever, seven, I hope I can continue to play the game,” James said. “I love being in L.A., my family loves being in L.A. Being with a historical franchise like the Lakers is something…It’s like me being in “Space Jam” — I never thought it would be possible. You think about Kareem, and Magic, and Wilt, and Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, Kobe, Shaq and all of them, the whole list goes on.”
James wants to extend his career as long as possible, well beyond his current contract that runs through the 2022-23 campaign. It places greater importance on upcoming changes with him playing more at power forward and adding Westbrook to the mix.
Those factors may allow him to play several more years while contending for more NBA titles.