The Lakers‘ slide continued on Monday night, as they dropped a home game to their L.A. rivals, the Clippers, falling further out of the Western Conference playoff picture. With just 18 games to play, the Lakers are now 5.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Spurs, who won a nail-biter over Denver.
While the Lakers’ odds of reaching the postseason are increasingly remote, there are still no plans for the team to rest LeBron James down the stretch. James said as much to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin after Monday’s loss.
“That would take a lot of convincing from [head coach] Luke [Walton] on up,” James said, suggesting that GM Rob Pelinka, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson, and owner Jeanie Buss would all need to be involved in that decision. “Unless I’m hurt, I’m not sitting games.”
If the Lakers’ playoff hopes continue to slip away, it would make sense for the team to prioritize its young players down the stretch. Resting James would allow the team to avoid putting unnecessary miles on its franchise player in the first season of a four-year contract. And, of course, with LeBron out of the lineup, the club might end up improving its lottery position as well.
So far, no one from the Lakers has approached James about the idea, according to McMenamin. However, LeBron wouldn’t be surprised if the idea is broached sometime in the coming days or weeks.
“That conversation hasn’t occurred, but I’m sure it can happen soon,” James said.
While the four-time MVP seems opposed to the idea of shutting things down entirely, he acknowledged that if the Lakers’ don’t turn things around in a hurry, monitoring his playing time over the season’s final month would be a possibility.
“You kind of look at the rest of the games, and look at the percentages of what’s going on there in the future, and see what makes more sense for not only me but the team itself as well,” James said.
Here’s more on the slumping Lakers:
- In a piece examining the problems in Los Angeles, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne writes that LeBron James talked with Magic Johnson before the season about targeting play-makers and guys known for their toughness. The Lakers ultimately ended up going out and signing veterans who fit that bill and were willing to play on one-year deals, which is how the team ended up with players like Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee rather than outside shooters.
- There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Lakers’ disappointing season, Bill Plaschke writes in a column for The Los Angeles Times. Plaschke points to James, Johnson, Rob Pelinka, and Jeanie Buss as those who are at least partially responsible for the dysfunction.
- Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report suggests (via Twitter) that there are ongoing whispers about Luke Walton being a candidate for the UCLA head coaching job if he’s let go by the Lakers at season’s end. Luke’s father Bill Walton is a notable UCLA alum.