That’s the verdict of Chris Broussard, even though the Lakers’ chance of making the post-season are all but over.
The Lakers are 6.5 games back from the eighth seed in the Western Conference and find themselves on a four-game losing streak.
Los Angeles lost 99-115 at Staples Center to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night although LeBron passed Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
The four-time MVP ended the night with 31 points but the Lakers simply could claw back after giving up 43 points in the first quarter, despite narrowing the gap at one point in the fourth.
Barring a true miracle, the Lakers – who have 17 regular-season games remaining – look set to miss out on the playoffs for a sixth straight year.
They are 30-35 with LeBron set to finish below .500 for the first time since his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers and miss out on the playoffs for the first time sine 2004-05.
But Broussard insists the 34-year-old, who is locked in for at least another three seasons in southern California, must stay out on the court until the Lakers’ playoff hopes are categorically over.
He told Colin Cowherd on Fox Sports’ The Herd: “When they’re eliminated mathematically – which believe it or not will be a while – then you can sit him if you want.
“It might be six, seven, eight games left in the season – whatever. But until then, no way.
“I don’t think they’re going to make the playoffs, I think they’re done but it’s not over, you still have the best player in the world, one of the top players, go for it.
“We all think this team is going to look a lot different next year, a lot of the one-year veterans will be gone. But what if you can’t trade for Anthony Davis?
“That would mean, likely, that Kuzma and Ingram are still a part of your team going forward.
“Maybe they try to trade one of them for a Bradley Beal or something like that but the bottom line is, these two guys plus Lonzo could be a part of your team next year.
“For the future, they need these games. These are their playoffs. You’re not out of it. They need to learn what playoff pressure-filled basketball is about and they can get that if LeBron is still playing.
“If he sits, then you’re just coasting through the rest of the season and everybody’s going for their individual numbers.”
And Broussard believes LeBron’s time with the Lakers has gone so badly so far that fans are beginning to look at Kobe Bryant even more fondly.
Future Hall of Fame Kobe spent his entire 20-year NBA career with the Lakers, ending as an 18-time All-Star, a five-time champion and the league’s third-highest scorer of all time.
Broussard continued: “LeBron has had some bad optical moments this season; sitting apart from his team-mates on the bench in Indiana, all the stuff he’s got going on in Hollywood, the TV shows, the albums with 2 Chainz.
“A lot of Laker fans are starting to think about whether he came to play basketball or just to be a mogul.
“A lot of fans are also looking at Kobe and saying, ‘Kobe brought it every night.’ Kobe’s image is actually improving with LeBron here.
“Because people are comparing and saying, ‘Kobe brought it! We didn’t have to worry about his intensity night-to-night even if he missed shots or whatever.’
“This would be another [bad] optic for LeBron if he sits out.”