Lakers should 'shut down' LeBron James for rest of season, ESPN analyst says

The reeling Lakers have lost four of five and are now an extreme long shot to make the NBA playoffs. Is it time to do the once unthinkable and sit LeBron James?

ESPN analyst Jay Williams thinks so. The former college star and NBA player said Monday morning on the network’s “Get Up!” program that the Lakers should “shut down” LeBron James for the final 19 games.

“Magic Johnson needs to shut LeBron James down,” Williams said. “He needs to take it away from LeBron, because LeBron’s pride will want him to play. LeBron is the ultimate competitor, and he will want to compete for an eight [playoff] spot. But if you’re thinking about long-term return on investment for LeBron James, who is 34 years old, you have to be able to compartmentalize that if you’re Magic Johnson, and say, ‘OK, LeBron, sit down, I don’t need you to get injured … sit down, get healthy.'”

The NBA would certainly frown on that, given the league’s recent directive to the Pelicans that they must play disgruntled star Anthony Davis rather than sit him. But might the Lakers take a similar stance with James, and play him extremely limited minutes the rest of the way? Williams said sitting James would allow the team to show off its younger players and boost their trade value. And as far as coach Luke Walton … well, Williams, like many others, expects he’s on the way out.

“Hey, let’s get these younger assets back involved, let them play without LeBron and showcase themselves, so you can create more assets,” Williams said. “Also, hey, Luke Walton, you’re going to be the next coach of UCLA, let’s start looking forward to who our next head coach is going to be and start really paying attention to who we’re going to trade for in the offseason.

“[ESPN’s] BPI Index gives them a 1.1 percent chance to make the playoffs. Why are you fighting for that? Let it go. Focus on next year.”

Williams, a former star at Duke, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft. He played one season for the Bulls before a serious motorcycle crash ended his career.