LAS VEGAS — As impactful as the Los Angeles Lakers hope their new free agent signings will be next season, the most consequential development so far this offseason just might be the health of their two returning stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Both have recovered from the respective foot ailments they suffered and played through last season, according to Rob Pelinka, Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager.
“We feel good about the offseason and the treatment that AD and LeBron are getting,” Pelinka said at halftime of the Lakers’ summer league game against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday. “All the reports have been good around both those injuries, in terms of the guys being able to move past them.”
James missed 13 straight games from late February until late March because of a torn tendon in his right foot. Though he was able to close out the regular season and helped lead L.A. to the Western Conference finals, his lift and burst were limited in the playoffs.
The four-time MVP is entering his 21st season and will turn 39 in December.
He told ESPN following L.A.’s Game 4 loss to the Denver Nuggets that he planned to get an MRI on his foot and could undergo surgery in the summer to correct the injury.
Davis, meanwhile, missed 20 straight games from mid-December until late January with a bone spur and stress reaction in his right foot. Like James, he played every game in L.A.’s postseason run.
The 11-year veteran will be eligible to sign a three-year, $167 million contract extension starting Aug. 4. Davis and James have two years remaining on their deals with the Lakers and both have a player option for 2024-25.
Pelinka, citing the collective bargaining agreement, declined to discuss the Lakers’ extension plans for Davis next month.
“I wish the CBA allowed us to talk about negotiations … but there’s pretty strict rules around that,” Pelinka said. “So can’t really talk about contracts and negotiations, but couldn’t think more highly of Anthony Davis as a Laker and as a player. He’s helped deliver a championship to our franchise.
“He’s been an incredible captain and leader. We saw last year, willing to play through a hard foot injury to get our team to the Western Conference finals. So, just love having him as a part of our team.”
Pelinka did say he has been in contact with Davis about the Lakers’ roster construction, however.
L.A. signed Jaxson Hayes to a one-year minimum contract with the hope to play the 7-foot, 220-pound center in the lineup alongside Davis at the 4 — similar to the way Davis played with Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee at center en route to the title in 2020.
“I think [of] Jaxson much like Dwight Howard in that stretch for us: big body, rim protector, active roller,” Pelinka said.
Pelinka also addressed Hayes’ 2021 arrest when police responded to a domestic disturbance call. Hayes was sentenced in June 2022 to three years of probation, 450 hours of community service and a year of weekly domestic violence classes after getting into a confrontation with officers and pleading no contest to misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment and resisting an officer.
“I think the most important thing is we take those things very seriously and do a full vetting process,” Pelinka said. “Jaxson has been very sincere [with] his apologies around handling that and has moved beyond it to where he’s had a year or two in the NBA playing after it. It was something that we felt like he owned, took responsibility for it, and is going to be a better person on the other side of it.”
Beyond Hayes, Pelinka said L.A. is “actively in the market to add another big,” and hinted that the Lakers would pursue a player with stretch 5 capabilities.
“I think dimensional-izing the skills at that position would be important,” Pelinka said. “So we don’t want to sign someone who replicates the skills that Jaxson Hayes has. So, if we can diversify the big position and have different looks, that would be good.”
Wood, 6-10, averaged 16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Dallas Mavericks last season, shooting 51.5% from the floor and 37.6% from 3.
L.A. has two remaining roster spots open and plans to keep one vacant position for the start of training camp.