Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma watch from the bench during the Lakers' game against the Denver Nuggets on March 6, 2019.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Walton Updates Players' Statuses Before Final 17 Games

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

As the Lakers head into the final 17 games of the season, coach Luke Walton said he will “keep a closer eye” on LeBron James’ workload.

While the head coach will not put a maximum number on his star’s minutes, he did say that it will be an additional focus to “make sure we keep him healthy to finish the season.”

Walton said that James is on board with the plan, having already discussed it with the team’s trainers.

LeBron has averaged a career-low-tying 35.6 minutes per game this season, but that is still seventh-most in the league nonetheless.

James — who also ranks sixth in scoring (27.1) and third in assists (8.0) — additionally missed five weeks due to a groin strain, marking the longest injury absence of his career.

The 16-year veteran has played 1,190 career regular-season games, 44th in NBA history. He has also appeared in the fourth-most postseason contests (239).

“With the amount of miles he’s put on those tires, anything we can do to keep him as fresh as possible we’re going to try to do,” Walton said.

Meanwhile, Lonzo Ball’s availability is in question for the rest of the season, as he continues his recovery from a left ankle sprain.

Ball has been out since mid-January and will have his status officially updated on Saturday. But Walton said he would need at least a week of practice before returning to games, adding that “he’s not close to that.”

With such little time left, Walton said it could end up being best to have him sit the remainder of the schedule, allowing him to put in additional work in the offseason — which he wasn’t able to do last year due to injury.

“Lonzo hasn’t had himself an offseason yet as far as development,” Walton said, “which is a huge part of when you get better at this level.

“With where we’re at now and not looking like he’s close to being able to play yet, it’s almost getting to the point where the true value comes from [getting] him as healthy as possible, so he has however many months this summer to really expand and keep working on his game.”

While Ball and Tyson Chandler (neck stiffness) will miss Saturday’s game against the Boston Celtics, the Lakers do hope to have some reinforcements against their rivals.

Brandon Ingram (shoulder soreness) and Kyle Kuzma (ankle sprain) are listed as questionable to return, as is Lance Stephenson (toe sprain).

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