Ireland: Lakers Shouldn't Shut Down LeBron James

With the playoffs becoming increasingly less likely, the Lakers may opt to sit James for the rest of the season; John Ireland wouldn't do that

Reiter Than You
March 06, 2019 - 7:10 am

USA Today Images

Categories: 

The Los Angeles Lakers (30-34) have been all but eliminated from the playoffs. While they are still mathematically alive, they are 5-13 in their last 18 games and have lost seven of nine overall, including three straight.

The question is no longer, “Will the Lakers make the playoffs?” No, the question is, “Should the Lakers shut down LeBron James for the rest of the season?”

“I personally wouldn’t shut him down,” Lakers play-by-play voice John Ireland said on Reiter Than You. “The Buss family has always stressed that we are an entertainment product. People, particularly in our city, come to be entertained. That’s why the Lakers get top dollar for their TV contracts; that’s why they get top dollar for their tickets. We’ve still got a lot of home games left. We still have nine, 10 home games left. Those people paid money to see LeBron James. I think if LeBron is healthy, he should play. I talked to him (Monday) night; he wants to play.”

James is averaging 27.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists and playing 35.7 minutes per game. The Lakers trail the Spurs (36-29) by 5.5 games for the final playoff spot in the West.

“Once we get mathematically eliminated, you can cut his minutes way down,” Ireland said. “You can keep him under 30. But he’s got to play because it’s the old Billy Joel line: ‘I know that it’s me they’re coming to see.’ People here are tuning in to see LeBron, people here are paying money to see LeBron, and I don’t think it would be right to shut him down. I would play him just because I think that honors the history of our franchise and the fact that we’re an entertainment product above all else.”

Either way, Lakers fans likely aren’t losing sleep over this team. After all, this is a fan base that thought the 2004 and 2008 seasons – when the Lakers lost in the NBA Finals to the Pistons and Celtics, respectively – were failures.

“Anything that is short of a championship is looked at as a failure,” Ireland said. “Our fan base, right or wrong, looks at those seasons as absolute total failures. So not making the playoffs is bad, but everybody kind of looks at this as the Warriors’ year anyway. It’s disappointing, but it’s not end-of-the-world devastation because if you don’t win a title out here, they look at the season as a failure anyway.”