Luke Walton says that even with the Lakers eliminated from playoff contention, getting James to agree to sit the rest of the way wasn’t easy (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN):
“He wants to play,” Walton said ahead of the Lakers’ 130-102 road win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday. “But it’s one of those things where the medical staff just finally said, ‘Look, it’s just not worth it anymore. Let’s make sure you have a healthy summer.’ So that’s the decision that was made, and we’ll move forward without him on the floor for the final six.”
James himself confirmed that he still wanted play to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, but also said he trusts that the Lakers are looking out for him by benching him:
James did not want to be “shut down” — the term itself is cringeworthy for a player who played in 104 games last season and has played into June for eight straight seasons. He told The Athletic that “of course I would love to still play, but I’ve always listened to the ones I trust, no matter if I always agreed with them or not.”
“They’re looking out for my best interest, and that’s the way it is,” he added.
This summer will present challenges James has yet to see. This is the most he’s ever been doubted, and while not playing in the postseason offers up the advantage only extra rest can provide, James says it’s also giving him one other thing: Extra motivation.
Making his first comments since the Lakers shut him down for the remainder of this season, LeBron told The Athletic he is not going to pretend this is just another summer.
“I like being uncomfortable in the offseason,” he said. “I like being counted out. It motivates me.”
It’s good to see James and the Lakers on the same page, even if his first season with the team didn’t go at all to plan. They’ll need to remain as such if they want to work together to turn things around, and that starts with a healthy and energized LeBron. At the very least, this summer should provide that.