LeBron James might not look like it when he’s playing basketball, but he’s going to turn 35 years old on Dec. 30, which will make him one of seven players in the NBA 35 or older. The others are Thabo Sefolosha, JJ Redick, J.J. Barea, Tyson Chandler, Kyle Korver and Vince Carter.
None of the aforementioned players will be expected to lead their respective teams to a championship this season except for James, who is the second-leading scorer on the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that currently holds the league’s best record (7-1). But while James is one of a kind, he’s still only human (as far as we know).
It’s for that reason there is some concern about the miles on James’ legs. He leads all active players in minutes played and is ranked No. 13 all-time in minutes played. That’s not even including the 10,049 minutes he’s logged in the postseason. Even with the extended offseason he got as a result of missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, he could use some rest.
James is less concerned about his load and how it’s managed. In fact, after the Lakers beat the Miami Heat on Friday, he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN that he expects to play every game he’s healthy this season, even if the training staff would prefer if he didn’t:
There has been internal discussion within the Lakers’ coaching and training staff about how to find time to rest James, sources told ESPN. But James, who turns 35 next month, is loath to accept it.
”Talk to my coaches,” James said. “You know how many times me and T-Lue [Tyronn Lue] got into it in Cleveland when he wanted to sit me and I wanted to play.
”I’m healthy, I play. I probably got a good 45 years to not play basketball.”
If James refuses to sit, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said the team has a plan in place to get their superstar forward some rest over the course of the 82-game season so that he’s fresh for the postseason:
Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who accepted the job after negotiations with Lue this summer broke down, said the team plans to protect James from overwork “every way we can.”
”Whether it’s off days in practice or minimize his minutes, minimize his load,” Vogel said after practice Thursday. “There’s some things built in scheme-wise that require him to do -- to pass some guys off at certain times. Every way we can.”
James’ competitive spirit is admirable and the fans that pay hundreds of dollars to watch him play surely appreciate his effort. That being said, there are some games that James just has no business suiting up for.
For example, the Lakers will play the 2-7 Golden State Warriors on the second night of a back-to-back on Wednesday. James has already said he plans to play in that game, even though his team would be totally fine if he didn’t.
One could argue that there’s a benefit in the Lakers starting off as strong as possible so James can load manage later in the season, but that’s not what he’s saying — he’s saying he doesn’t plan to rest at all, which probably isn’t a great idea.
It’s an 82-game long season. Hopefully James has a change of heart sooner rather than later.