The franchise wants to ensure James, 34, has a “healthy summer.”
LeBron missed 17 games due to a groin injury, and missed the postseason for the first time since 2005.
“He wants to play,” Walton said, ahead of the Lakers 130-102 road win over the New Orleans Pelicans 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.”
Why wasn’t that decision made sooner?
“Well, I think that goes back to him wanting to compete,” Walton said. “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.”
James joined the Lakers on their final road trip of the season, a two-game jaunt through New Orleans and Oklahoma City, even though he isn’t playing. Walton said it is meaningful to have James’ presence with the team.
“I think it’s good for the guys,” Walton said. “You know part of going into this season was, ‘Look, we’re putting you with a lot of young players. There’s a lot of new guys, as far as the free agents coming in and whatnot.’ So the more time that, ideally they’d spend together on the floor would be beneficial, but any time they can get together off the floor I think helps for down the road as well.”