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Lakers News: Luke Walton Has No Plans to Shut Down LeBron James for Season

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 20, 2019

NEW YORK, NY MARCH 17:  LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the ball against the New York Knicks on March 17, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton has not spoken with four-time NBA MVP LeBron James about sitting out the remainder of the regular season, he told reporters prior to his team's 115-101 road loss against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.

"We're a much better team when he's on the floor," Walton said. "So I'm looking forward to him getting back out there again."

James missed Tuesday's game with a sore left groin. He previously missed 17 games with a groin strain he suffered on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors.

The 31-40 Lakers are mathematically alive for a playoff berth, but they sat 10 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the final Western Conference postseason spot with 11 contests to go after the Bucks defeat.

Despite Walton's comments, the Lakers would be wise to shut James down when they are officially eliminated from the postseason.

James could reinjure the groin that has troubled him for most of the season in a meaningless game. Even if the chances of that are remote, what's the point of entertaining that possibility? 

James is 16 regular seasons (and 13 postseasons) into a decorated career. The 34-year-old still remains one of the NBA's best players, but he'll eventually start to slow down. Playing him once the playoffs are officially out of reach is a risky proposition with no reward.

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The Lakers are looking toward 2019-20 season and an offseason that will likely involve taking another shot at trading for New Orleans Pelicans star big man Anthony Davis, who has been connected to Los Angeles in numerous trade rumors over the past few months.

With all eyes on the future, the Lakers' present means next to nothing. They should treat these final regular-season games as such outside of giving younger players more court time to further develop their games.

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