LOS ANGELES — With the playoffs seeming like an unrealistic destination for the Los Angeles Lakers following a 113-105 loss to the LA Clippers on Monday night, LeBron James pushed back on the idea of shutting it down for the remainder of the season.
“That would take a lot of convincing from Luke [Walton] on up,” James told ESPN, referring to the Lakers coach as well as, most likely, everyone from general manager Rob Pelinka, to president Magic Johnson, to governor Jeanie Buss. “Unless I’m hurt, I’m not sitting games.”
Thus far, no one from the Lakers has approached James about sitting out games to preserve his body, or improve their draft lottery odds.
“That conversation hasn’t occurred, but I’m sure it can happen soon,” James told ESPN.
James has played in 46 of the Lakers’ 64 games, missing 18 games because of a slight tear in his left groin.
Since he has returned, as the Lakers tried to chase a postseason berth, he upped his workload, playing 40-plus minutes in five of L.A.’s past eight games.
After his 27 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists in 42 minutes went to waste against the Clippers, James admitted that monitoring his playing time — if not resting completely — is a possibility moving forward.
“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.
With 18 games remaining, the Lakers (30-34) trail the eighth-place San Antonio Spurs (36-29) by 5½ games for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Spurs also hold the tiebreaker over L.A.
James was asked what motivation the Lakers will have to finish out the season now that the franchise’s goal of making the playoffs for the first time in six years seems so remote.
“For me personally, I can [only] speak for myself,” he said. “Continue to be a professional, and be as great as you can be every single night, no matter the circumstances. ‘Cause someone is always watching.”