By Liz Roscher
Posted April 4th 2019
When the Los Angeles Lakers announced on Saturday that LeBron James would sit out the rest of the season, it made a lot of sense. The team had been eliminated from playoff contention, and the 34-year-old James could use the time to help his nagging groin injury heal.
Despite all that logic, the Lakers and coach Luke Walton apparently had to convince James that sitting out the team’s final six games was the best course of action — for him and for the team’s future.
“He wants to play,” Walton told ESPN on Sunday. “My understanding from the medical staff, they 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.”
It’s not surprising that James had to be convinced that sitting out was the best move. The groin tear he sustained on Christmas Day is the first serious injury he’s dealt with in his 16-year career. He doesn’t have a lot of experience with not playing, with sitting on the sidelines while his team battles in front of him. In fact, that’s why the Lakers didn’t shut him down as soon as the team was eliminated on March 22, according to Walton.
“Well, I think that goes back to him wanting to compete,” Walton said to ESPN. “Even though it’s over, he wants to be out there playing with his guys. Eventually, as that time goes on and on, it’s easier to tell someone like that, ‘Let’s take care of your health right now.’ So that’s kind of how the decision came.”
And now that the decision has been made, James can focus on healing and getting his body back to where it needs to be. Walton said that James would be working out and rehabbing over the final days of the season, and he’ll continue doing that over the summer so he can return to the Lakers strong and healthy next season.
With rehab and family time and his various other projects (like “Space Jam 2”), LeBron’s summer already seems full. But you can bet he’ll find time to work on some free-agent pitches. His case will be a lot more persuasive if he can tell free agents that he’s fully healthy and ready to start the season on time.