At the very heart of the load management debate is the dichotomy of professional sports being entertainment for fans, but also a competition between teams and players. LeBron James made it clear where he stands on the issue, and neither Frank Vogel nor the Los Angeles Lakers organization is going to stop him if he wants to keep playing.
Vogel was asked about how he’ll handle James’ stance on load management, and said he’ll work with his superstar as best he can (via Bill Oram of The Athletic):
“He knows that we’re open-minded and even encouraging him to look for smart opportunities to recharge the batteries,” Vogel said. “But we’re respecting what he wants to do, and he wants to be in there. So, like I said, we’re going to respect that.”
In some absolutely shocking news, a head coach is not going to get in the way of one of the greatest players ever wanting to play on a nightly basis. More at eleven.
In all seriousness, the Lakers have done a pretty good job at making James’ life as easy as possible so that he can load manage while he’s still playing. He’s obviously going to carry a larger burden than most, but all things considered, this season has come relatively easy for him.
Anthony Davis is the kind of special defender James has literally never played with before, capable of impacting the game both on the perimeter and in front of the rim. Then, on offense, he’s the best finisher James has ever had as a teammate in pick-and-roll situations.
James’ non-superstar teammates also help in this regard. Rob Pelinka has surrounded James with guys who can either defend their asses off, space the floor as deep threats, or carry some of the creative burden — all things James has previously been asked to do to a large extent singlehandedly.
What this all allows is for James to play on a nightly basis and continue to live up to the hopes fans have when the Lakers stop by their city, while also being smart about doing so. The coaching staff and organization deserve a ton of credit for figuring that balance out.