LeBron James played in a career-high 82 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, but before his first season in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform, he said that feat wasn’t due to some goal specifying how many games he wanted to play in.
”Didn’t have a number last year. I just go out and if my body is feeling good, I’m out there. If my body is not able to perform at the level that I’d like to play for my teammates, then I’m out,” James told reporters after the Lakers’ practice Monday.
”I don’t really have a game plan yet of what I’m going to do, personally.”
But while James doesn’t have a roadmap in place yet, he did say that his routine doesn’t change now matter how many minutes he’s planning to play, or based on whether he’s playing a regular season game or preseason one.
”I’ll be playing more than just the first half, 15 minutes, but other than that I prepare myself the same way for a preseason game that I do a regular season game as far as preparation,” James said. “None of those things change.”
That consistency has allowed James to stay mostly healthy for just about all of his 15-year playing career, but wear and tear is bound to accumulate on anyone playing for that length of time.
With that reality in mind, Lakers head coach Luke Walton says that he plans to be careful about James’ minutes this year, and not overtaxing the new face of the franchise (via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN):
”We’ve got four years, we want to make sure we’re not only playing at our best come the end of the season but that he’s fresh,” Walton said. “And that’s a goal for us. And it’s a goal that we’re on a journey and it’s not a one-year journey.”
Walton and James being on the same page about things like how much James plays will be critical in determining how things go for the Lakers over the next three or four years, and while there is the caveat that actual games haven’t begun yet to really test their relationship, it is encouraging that things seem to be off to a good start.