LeBron James is hopeful he'll finish career with the Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James speaks during a news conference before the NBA basketball All-Star game, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Speaking for the first time since reports that teams called on his availability at the trade deadline, LeBron James said he’s “happy” to be with the Lakers and that he’s hopeful that he’ll finish his career with the organization.

“I'm happy and been very happy being a Laker the last six years, and hopefully it stays that way,” James said when asked about his plans for the end of his career. “But I don’t have the answer for how long it is or which uniform it’ll be in.

“Hopefully, it’s the Lakers. It’s a great organization, so many greats. But we’ll see."

James, though, said there’s “not many” seasons left in his career.

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James, speaking with media Sunday ahead of his record 20th All-Star Game, said he received treatment on his bothersome left ankle in the lead-up to All-Star weekend and will continue to do so ahead of the Lakers’ game Thursday against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco.

The Warriors were reportedly among the teams that called the Lakers to gauge their interest in trading James before the deadline. Talks never seriously materialized, with James’ agent, Rich Paul, telling ESPN that James wouldn’t be traded and hasn’t requested a deal.

“Where our team is … we’re trending in the right direction,” James said.

James said that he’s healthy enough to honor his commitment to play in the Paris Olympics with Team USA this summer.

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“As it stands right now,” he said, “I’m healthy enough to be on the team and perform at the level I want to perform at.”

James said he didn’t know how the rest of the season would play out in terms of health or strain on his body, but that he’s locked in on helping Team USA win in Paris.

“If I'm committed, which I am, to Team USA, then I'm going to commit my mind, body and soul to being out there for Team USA, being out there representing our country with the utmost respect and go out and play,” James said. “But the one thing I know for sure, I don't have to carry the load. I've never had to carry the load on any one of the three teams I've been on, the '04 team, the '08 team and the '12 team. I just try to do my best and be as great as I can be on the floor in the minutes I'm out there.

“I'm not sure right now what the full team is going to look like, but from some of the names I know I don't have to feel any pressure going out there to feel like I have to carry the team.”

Earlier this weekend, James’ teammate, Anthony Davis, said he would play in Paris if asked.

When it comes time for James to retire, he said he’s unsure if he’d announce it would be his final season so he could receive a kind of farewell tour around the league.

“I'm 50-50, I'm going to be honest, because there's times when I feel like I guess I owe it to my fans that have been along this journey with me for two decades plus, to be able to give them that moment where it's every city and whatever the case may be and they give you your flowers or whatever the case may be. That seems cool,” James said.

“But the other side of [it], I've never been that great with accepting, like, praise. It's a weird feeling for me. I never really talked about it much, but it's just a weird feeling for me. So to go in each city, if that's the case — I don't know. I've seen [Michael Jordan's], I've seen [Kobe Bryant's]. I've seen a lot of guys. I just don't know how much I — how I'd feel. I don't know if I'd feel great about it. Maybe the only child in me, maybe.”

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First, James and the Lakers have to finish off this season, the team having won six of its last seven games since two consecutive losses led to James posting an hourglass emoji on social media.

“My mind is just sharper than anything," James said. "It's allowed me to go out there and sometimes just outthink the game and not have to physically be imposing out on the floor for 40 minutes or 42, whatever the case may be that I'm out there. I could pick my spots.

“When I need to be more aggressive offensively or less aggressive and allow guys like [D’Angelo Russell] and [Austin Reaves] to run the team, and I can play off the ball, whatever the case may be. Being able to have a dominant threat like AD and being able to throw the ball to him and wait and see what the defense is going to do and play off with that.

“I guess I'm just a lot smarter than I was in my first 10 years compared to these last 10 years.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.