Los Angeles Lakers: LA Should Consider Cutting LeBron James’ 19th Season Short

If LeBron James‘ 19th season has taught Los Angeles Lakers fans anything, it’s that even the King is no longer capable of covering up every one of his team’s flaws.

James has been better than anyone could have imagined a 37-year-old being. Yet his Lakers are worse than everyone expected, entering the weekend with a dismal 29-40 record. Despite LeBron’s age-defining performance, LA is 5-16 since Jan. 26, the last day it sat at .500.

LeBron is doing everything he can to salvage a Lakers season that seems destined to end in a play-in-round exit. So it begs the following: Should the Purple and Gold sit LeBron for the remainder of a horrendous 2021-22 season?

LeBron James is playing through knee soreness

James is having a remarkable 19th season. Through 51 games, the four-time MVP is averaging 29.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 6.2 assists. Not only is that his highest point total since 2009-10, but it also puts him dangerously close to becoming the oldest player ever to win the scoring title.

That said, the King hasn’t been the best when it comes to staying healthy. LeBron has missed 18 games this year with his worst injury being an abdominal strain suffered on Nov. 2. While he’s missed just one game since Feb. 5, he’s still far from “healthy.”

Since his Jan. 25 game against the Brooklyn Nets, James has dealt with nagging knee issues. His knee kept him on the bench for the next five games, but the soreness has yet to subside. In fact, LeBron sat out as recently as Mar. 7 with what was described as “significant knee soreness.”

At this stage in the game, the King is essentially day-to-day leading up to every game. All to play for a 29-40 team with no shot to match its high preseason expectations.

Should the Lakers sit LeBron James?

Despite missing close to 20 contests, LeBron is still eligible for the scoring title. He’s already blowing past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (14.6) for the most points scored in year 19 of a career. But he now has a chance to surpass a 35-year-old Michael Jordan as the oldest player to lead the NBA in points.

Even if that might be James’ goal at the moment, it shouldn’t be the Lakers’ goal.

If there’s one thing that’s become clear about LA’s last few games, it’s that LeBron needs to score 50 for it to have a chance. That’s simply not a sustainable plan, especially when the guy you’re asking to carry you is 37 and playing on a knee that’s only going to get worse.

Shutting James down would also give the Purple and Gold a real, genuine opportunity to assess their roster. There’s a high probability that many changes will be made in general, but at least LA could focus on what each individual player brings to the table before making any decisions this summer.

There are presumably two big holdups to ending James’ historic 2021-22 season. First, the King is on a mission to win the scoring title. And two, the Lakers desperately don’t want to miss their shot at a play-in-round game. The latter can easily be disputed, as LA fans aren’t going to be any less disappointed by losing to the 10-seed Pelicans or Trail Blazers instead of missing the play-in altogether.

As for LeBron, it’s obvious that he wants to make a legitimate run at Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record. But it will be hard to do that if he further injures his knee and has to alter his offseason training schedule or, heaven forbid, has to undergo surgery. There’s a real case to make that shutting James down for LA’s final 13 games actually gives him a better chance to surpass Kareem in the long run.

No decision happens without LeBron’s approval

Some organizations have the power and authority to do what they want, when they want. The Lakers simply don’t have that after signing James in 2018.

If the Lakers realistically want to shut down LeBron and give him ample time to heal ahead of next season, they’ll need the King’s approval. It might be a tough ask, and he might say no. But LA should at least try to gauge his feeling on it, citing that his long-term health takes priority over a lost season.

Of course, the biggest issue with sitting LeBron is effectively ending his scoring title hopes. That’s just something the Purple and Gold will have to discuss with the future Hall of Famer.

It’s been a nightmare of a season for LA, with James serving as the lone exception. But in order to prevent future nightmares, the King might have to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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