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Lakers cap lost season by shutting down LeBron James

The Los Angeles Lakers have endured a miserable season, giving LeBron James a much longer summer break than he's used to. (Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES — The only question was when.

The Los Angeles Lakers announced Saturday that LeBron James will be shut down for the remainder of the season, a move that officially caps the franchise’s dismal and disappointing 2018-19 campaign.

With nothing left to play for except lottery ping pong balls, the 34-year-old James will not suit up for L.A.’s final six games. The all-star forward appeared in a career-low 55 games this season, missing more than a month due to a groin strain suffered against the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day. The shutdown decision does not come as a major surprise, given that James and the Lakers first broached the subject of managing his minutes nearly three weeks ago.

“After consulting with our team doctors and medical staff, we have decided to hold LeBron out of games for the remainder of the season," Lakers president Magic Johnson said in a statement. "This decision will allow his groin to fully heal, and is best for the future success of both LeBron and the Lakers.”

The Lakers (34-42) are 10 games out of the West’s playoff picture and were officially eliminated from the postseason with a March 22 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. James promised to ”activate" playoff mode following a turbulent and active trade deadline season, but the Lakers endured a pair of five-game losing streaks in March.

Despite the most serious injury of his career and his first lottery trip since 2005, James posted stellar individual statistics, led the league in all-star votes, and will be a strong candidate to make one of the all-NBA teams for the 15th straight season. He also surpassed Michael Jordan for the fourth spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

James’ final stats were eye-popping, as always: 27.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game. No other NBA player matched or exceeded those numbers in all three categories this season. Additionally, his 25.8 Player Efficiency Rating ranked eighth in the NBA.

Still in the first year of a four-year max contract with the Lakers he signed last summer, James already ranks 15th all-time with more than 46,000 regular-season minutes played. The three-time champion has also played more than 10,000 postseason minutes, the most of any player in league history.

The Lakers, who have now missed the playoffs in a franchise-record six straight seasons, entered Saturday’s action holding the tenth spot in the 2019 NBA draft lottery order. If they maintain that spot, they will have a 3 percent chance of landing the top pick in June’s draft.

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