Should Lakers convince LeBron James to shut it down for the rest of the season?
LeBron James sat out Tuesday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks due to a sore left groin, but embattled head coach Luke Walton said before the game the Los Angeles Lakers have no intention of shutting the superstar down for the rest of the season. But should they?
“We’re a much better team when he’s on the floor,” Walton said, via ESPN. “So I’m looking forward to him getting back out there again.”
While not mathematically eliminated, the Lakers (31-40) are 10.5 games back of the Los Angeles Clippers, the current No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. There arguably is no good reason to put James back on the floor, especially if the groin that caused him to miss 18 games earlier in the season is causing him trouble.
What’s interesting as well about Walton’s comments is that given that all signs point to him getting fired at season’s end, the assumption has to be the decision to continue playing James would come from above, specifically Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, not to mention from the superstar himself. There arguably is no way Lakers brass are allowing Walton to call any shots at this point in a lost season.
James originally expressed reservations against sitting out any games when the Lakers were technically still in the playoff hunt. However, the team is now clearly playing out the string of a hugely disappointing season that fell far short of expectations.
It merits noting as well that James missed last Friday’s game against the Detroit Pistons for what was deemed “load management.” Perhaps between that development and the groin soreness, the process of convincing James to sit for the balance of the season may already be in the works.
Concerning the ongoing groin issue, Lakers brass reportedly suspected that James was not fully healthy upon his return to the lineup in late January following a career-long stint on the shelf. The argument can be reasonably made that James ought to gracefully bow out of the Lakers’ final 11 games, something that conceivably could occur so long as management does not leave the decision entirely up to him.